The meeting today is taking place on the 25th anniversary of the first Eurogroup meeting. I began the meeting with a short reflection on what has happened since we recognised the 20th anniversary of the Eurogroup. Here in Luxembourg we reflected on all that we have responded back to since then: the pandemic, the war, the challenge of inflation, but made the case for the resilience of the euro during that time and for the central role of the Eurogroup in putting that resilience in place.
By the time we get to the next 25th anniversary of the Eurogroup in 2048, and I am sure when we will get to that point, we will be looking back on another quarter of a century of the euro changing, but still being there in a really resilient way, supporting the people of Europe and contributing to economic growth and to rising living standards. Part of these next 25 years will be how we develop the digital dimension of the euro. This is something that is under very active consideration within the Eurogroup and within our institutions. We in the Eurogroup today assessed where this project stands and heard from the ECB and from the Commission regarding what work they have recently completed in the scoping phase of the project.
The discussion today was taking place in the context of the Commission finalising their work to bring forward a legislative proposal with regard to this project. To be clear: what that work will do is not create a digital euro itself, but create the legal framework for the possible issuance of a digital euro at a future point in time.
Issues that ministers discussed here today were the importance of developing a compelling and clear narrative regarding what would be the added value of this development and the difference that it would make to the lives of the citizens of Europe and to the commercial activity of businesses within the European Union. We acknowledge that while there is broad support regarding the project that is underway, within our institutions ministers want to support this work but also look at how we can further develop that narrative.
From this, we went on to the update on our work programme for the second half of this year and for the early part of next year that was adopted by the Eurogroup. There are three strands of work on which we will be working together. First, the continued challenge of how we coordinate fiscal policies when we are working hard to get inflation down. Secondly, how we can continue to deepen our Economic and Monetary Union and make it more competitive – we began some of that work today on the future of European capital and financial markets, and we have also agreed to put further focus on the competitiveness of the euro area. And thirdly, the digital future of the euro and its role as an international reserve currency.
Our next item today – at this point we were joined by the IMF – was the regular post-programme surveillance. We heard from all our institutions an update on the recent economic performance of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus. There was very broad recognition from all who spoke of the strong progress that has been made in Dublin, Athens, Lisbon, Madrid and Nicosia over the last year. We saw trading performances that have improved so much. We also saw fiscal performances that in many ways are actually ahead of the average performance of the euro area.
From this stand, we went on to the ‘Article IV’ review, the regular assessment by the IMF of the performance of the euro area and of our policies. The IMF Managing Director joined us for that meeting and she shared her assessment with us. She will be giving a press conference with regard to this tomorrow morning, so I’m not going to get in the way of the briefing that the IMF will give. But I think it is fair to say that the areas that they asked for a continued or increased focus are also the areas that we had identified for work in our work programme.
We concluded a few moments ago with an update on the recent work on our capital and financial markets. We heard from the ECB, the IMF and the Commission about the scale of capital markets within the European Union, about the nature of those capital markets. We compare those to elsewhere in the world. That analysis reminded us of the fact that we have made progress, but it equally reminded us that we have a lot more progress to make. What ministers recommitted to this evening is a process for identifying those areas of focus. This may indeed be familiar ground, but just because it’s familiar isn’t a reason why progress can’t be delivered. We want to make more of a difference in the future to how our own savings can fund our own growth. We aim to make recommendations to the Commission for their future work programme in this area. So a very productive and busy day on many different fronts.