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Ecofin Council

Volume 401: debated on Friday 14 March 2003

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Luxembourg on '7 March; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [102511]

I attended the ECOFIN meeting on 7 March. In preparation for the Spring Council on 21-22 March, ECOFIN adopted a Presidency Key Issues Paper on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines and a related Economic Policy Committee report on structural reforms. Ministers also agreed joint reports by the Commission and the Council on pensions systems and on the future of healthcare and care for the elderly. These reports will also be sent to the Spring Council.ECOFIN also adopted a report to the Spring Council on strengthening economic policy co-ordination. The report emphasizes the importance of the economic cycle, sustainability, and the quality of public investment and of taking a country-by-country approach to the assessment of member states' compliance with the medium-term close to balance requirement. It is therefore in line with key aspects of the UK's prudent interpretation of the Stabilityand Growth Pact.

ECOFIN agreed Council Opinions on the Stability Programmes of Portugal and Luxembourg. It also took note of a legislative text on a Recommendation on the voting modalities of the ECB's Governing Council and noted reservations by Finland and the Netherlands. The Council approved a draft statement to be entered in the minutes of the Council at the adoption of the Decision, which confirms that the reform of ECB governance arrangements should not be seen as setting a precedent for other Community institutions.

The Presidency indicated that they would seek final agreement on the tax package at an additional ECOFIN to be held on 19 March. They also indicated that agreement on energy taxation would be postponed to the ECOFIN on 19 March.ECOFIN adopted a Recommendation on the discharge of the 2001 Community Budget and adopted conclusions on priorities for the 2004 Budget.

Under any other business, the German delegation indicated that they had presented a proposal to their Parliament to levy VAT on all flights over German airspace. This was noted by other delegations.

No votes were taken at the meeting.