The Eurogroup meeting took place in two formats – the first part was a regular meeting of the euro area ministers, and the second part was a meeting of the ministers of 27 EU member states.
Eurogroup meeting in regular format
Greece’s economic adjustment programme
The Eurogroup was informed about the staff-level agreement concluded by the institutions and the Greek authorities on 19 May. The focus is now on Greece’s successful implementation of the agreed reforms, ahead of the June Eurogroup meeting.
The Eurogroup also continued its discussions on possible debt measures in preparation for the decisions that are planned for the Eurogroup meeting in June.
Greece’s economic adjustment programme is now under its fourth and final review . The programme’s formal expiry date is 20 August 2018.
Economic situation in the euro area: European Commission spring forecast
The European Commission presented its 2018 spring forecast, published on 3 May.
Thematic discussion on growth and jobs: spending reviews
The Eurogroup held a follow-up discussion on spending reviews, this time focusing on the challenge of ensuring ownership when conducting spending reviews. Irish and Spanish ministers shared their countries’ experiences and lessons learned from their recently completed spending reviews.
The Eurogroup had previously discussed this topic in June last year, and in September 2016, when it adopted common principles for improving expenditure allocation.
Spending reviews help governments detect areas where savings and efficiency gains could be made and where spending could bring greater value for money.
Meeting in inclusive format
Banking union and European Stability Mechanism (ESM)
Finance ministers from 27 EU member states exchanged views on the completion of the banking union and the future role of the ESM. They took stock of the progress made so far and discussed the way forward in preparation for the upcoming leaders’ meeting in June.
Today the Commission is presenting a series of measures stemming from the Capital Markets Union and the Banking Union, leading to a stronger and more resilient Economic and Monetary Union.
irst, the Commission is today proposing risk-reduction rules that will allow market-led solutions for the development of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBS). SBBS would contribute to weakening the link between banks and their home countries. SBBS would, by design, not involve mutualisation of risks and losses among euro area Member States. Instead, these securities would be issued by private institutions as claims on a portfolio of euro-area government bonds. The market-driven development of SBBS will help investors diversify their sovereign exposures and promote financial integration. Full press release, MEMO and factsheet on SBBS are available online. The Commission is today also presenting a series of actions to drive forward the Capital Markets Union (CMU). Following up on the first ever EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, the Commission is now coming forward with its first tangible measures to enable the EU financial sector to lead the way to a greener and cleaner economy. More investments will be channelled into sustainable activities thanks to new rules that determine whether an economic activity is environmentally-sustainable or not. These proposals confirm Europe’s commitment to be the global leader in fighting climate change and implement the Paris Agreement. Full press release, MEMO and factsheet on sustainable finance are available online. The Commission is also proposing new rules to give small and medium enterprises (SMEs) better access to financing through public markets. As part of the CMU agenda, today’s initiative should help EU companies to tap market-based funding more easily and cheaply so that they can expand. Full press release and MEMO on SMEs financing are available online. Moreover, the European Commission is today proposing to strengthen EU rules on motor insurance to better protect victims of motor vehicle accidents and improve the rights of insurance policyholders. Today’s proposal will ensure that victims of motor vehicle accidents are protected, even when the insurer is insolvent. Full press release and MEMO on motor insurance are available online.
The Commission has welcomed the agreement reached by EU Member States and the European Parliament last night on key measures to control illicit cash flows at EU customs. The reinforced rules complement the EU’s anti-money laundering rules and form part of the European Agenda on Security and work to fight the financing of terrorism.
The decision was taken following a final round of negotiations in Brussels. Putting tighter controls on large cash flows strengthens the capacity of the EU to tackle money laundering, fight terrorism and organised crime, making it harder for terrorists and criminals to finance their activities. Cutting off the sources of financing is one of the most effective ways to stop potential terrorist attacks and criminal activities in the EU and worldwide. Welcoming the political agreement, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “We are going further than ever before in the fight against money laundering and terrorism, with the aim of ensuring a safer society. We are responding to the expectations of our citizens, who are understandably outraged by the criminals and terrorist activity on our soil. I welcome today’s agreement to curb the circumvention of cash controls at the EU’s external borders.” Last night’s press release on the agreement is available here.
As of tomorrow, 25 May, new data protection rules will apply across the EU.
On this occasion, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Europe’s new data protection rules will be a reality tomorrow. Europeans’ privacy will be better protected and companies benefit from a single set of rules across the EU. Strong data protection rules are the basis for a functioning Digital Single Market and for the online economy to prosper. The new rules ensure that citizens can trust in how their data is used and that the EU can make the best of the opportunities of the data economy.” Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, added: “Personal data is the gold of the 21st century. And we leave our data basically at every step we take, especially in the digital world. (…) Data protection is a fundamental right in the EU. The new rules will put the Europeans back in control of their data. (…) The rules are based on a risk-based approach. Companies that have been making money from our data, have more responsibilities. They should also give something back to the consumers; at least the security of their data. Companies, which do not process data as their core business activity, have less obligations and mainly have to make sure that the data they process are secure and used legally. They will also be rules with teeth. Everyone, especially those companies that monetise our personal data, will have an interest to play by the rules.” On 6 April 2016, the EU agreed to a major reform of its data protection framework, by adopting the data protection reform package, comprising the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replacing the twenty years old Directive. On 25 May 2018, the new EU-wide data protection rules are becoming applicable after a two year transition period. New rules to strengthen data protection in EU institutions, bodies and agencies were agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators yesterday, in the so-called ‘trilogues’. Tomorrow, Commissioner Jourová will open an exhibition on the General Data Protection Regulation at 10:00 at the Commission’s info point at Schuman roundabout; journalists are welcome to join for a photo-op. The Commission is then organising in the afternoon an event dedicated to the topic, where Commissioner Jourová and Andrea Jelinek, Head of Austria’s Data Protection Authority and Chair of the Article 29 Working Party, will deliver the keynote speeches. The full programme is available online and journalists can register per e-mail. The event will also be streamed online. The full statement is available online, as well as Q&As and factsheets.
Tomorrow the Commission is organising a conference in Brussels (Charlemagne building) on “Good Governance for cohesion policy”, open to the press.
Commissioner for regional policy Corina Crețu said: “I say it often, good, transparent governance and solid administrations are as important as the money itself to ensure quality EU investments. This conference will give us the opportunity to discuss what tools and what skills are needed for the most effective management of EU funds and which actors to involve for transparent and open institutions.” The keynote address will be given by Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Mari Kiviniemi. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella will open the conference. Speakers and participants, coming from all over Europe, include Tomislav Donchev, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Raši, Slovak Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Information, Pedro Marques, Portuguese Minister of Planning and Infrastructure, Jerzy Kwieciński, Polish Minister for Investment and Development, as well as President of the Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz and MEP Constanze Krehl. In the context of the conference, the Commission will announcethe five countries and regions selected to take part in a new pilot action testing and developing solutions for administrative capacity-building in the post 2020 framework.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel are hosting today the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the European Union’s agencies working on cybersecurity and cyber defence.
Through this MoU, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), the European Defence Agency (EDA), Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Computer Emergency Response Team for the EU Institutions, Agencies and Bodies (CERT-EU) agree to step up their cooperation to equip Europe with the right tools to deal with new cyber challenges. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini, who is also the Head of the European Defence Agency, said: “Cyberspace threats do not know of national borders. Cooperation among Member States but also at European level is therefore essential. Europe is stronger when it tackles threats together, in a common and coordinated approach. And this is exactly where this Memorandum of Understanding is key and where the added value of the European Union lies: working together, joining forces, putting the experiences and the knowledge of all at the service of our citizens’ security.” This initiative will contribute to the EU’s cyber resilience and collective security by enhancing information sharing; cooperate on education and training and reinforcing collaboration on cyber exercises. It reflects the inter-institutional cooperation impetus initiated by the Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive) and the European Commission’s cybersecurity initiatives from September 2017. A full press release will be available here at 15:00 CEST.
On 23 and 24 May, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the Commissioners Miguel Arias Cañete and Carlos Moedas will attend two Ministerial meetings focussing on the clean energy transition globally.
Energy Union Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas will participate in the Mission Innovation Ministerial in Malmö. This third mission innovation (MI-3), co-hosted by Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the European Commission and the Nordic Council of Ministers, focuses on accelerating clean energy innovation and boosting public research and development spending in the field of clean energy. Energy ministers along with high-level representatives of business and the research community will celebrate what has been achieved so far and initiate engagement in new areas. Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will participate in the Ninth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM9) in Copenhagen, also co-hosted by Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the European Commission, representing the European Union. Business leaders from the energy sector and high-level representatives from the world of finance will take part. CEM is an important forum to advance the global clean energy transition and promote clean energy technologies. It focuses on the promotion of policies and programs that advance clean energy technologies, share lessons learned and best practices and encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. Participating countries in both fora represent about 90% of global clean energy investment and 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. For information and further programme details on the Commission’s website.
The Commission today proposed the 2019 draft EU Budget of €166 billion in commitments, investing in a stronger and more resilient European economy and promoting solidarity and security on both sides of the EU’s borders.
This budget is the sixth one under the current 2014-2020 long-term EU budget and operates within the limitations set therein. It is designed to optimise funding for existing programmes as well as new initiatives and to boost European added value in line with the Juncker Commission’s priorities. Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, said: “We are proposing an ambitious budget that continues to support our priorities, in particular on investment, jobs, youth, migration, solidarity and security, and that delivers European added value for our citizens. We need stability for the EU and I look forward to reaching an agreement with Parliament and Council as soon as possible.” The proposal is based on the premise that the United Kingdom, following its withdrawal as of 30 March 2019, will continue to contribute to and participate in the implementation of EU budgets until the end of 2020 as if it were a Member State. The European Parliament and the European Union Member States will now jointly discuss this proposal. Earlier this month, the Commission put forward its proposal for a pragmatic and modern long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period. A press release in all languages, but also a memo and a fact sheet in EN, DE, FR are available online.
The Commission has published its 2018 Convergence Report which assesses Member States’ progress towards joining the euro area. The report is based on the convergence criteria, sometimes referred to as the ‘Maastricht criteria’, set out in article 140(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The report covers the seven non-euro area Member States that are legally committed to adopting the euro: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden. It finds that these Member States generally display considerable nominal convergence, but none of them currently meet all the formal conditions for joining the euro area. Two of these Member States, Bulgaria and Croatia, fulfil all of the convergence criteria, except for the exchange rate criterion as they are not members of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II). According to a new Eurobarometer survey, published today, support for joining the euro in the non-euro area Member States covered by the Convergence Report continues to increase. The Convergence Report by the European Commission is published in parallel with the Convergence Report by the European Central Bank (ECB). A press release and memo are available online.