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Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held on 30 January in Brussels. The items on the agenda are as follows:

Presidency Work Programme

The German presidency will introduce their ECOFIN work programme for the next six months. This item will be a televised public debate and priorities are likely to focus on core Finance Minister responsibilities such as the quality of public finances, financial services and taxation.

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers will be invited to adopt procedural conclusions abrogating Decision 2003/487/EC on the existence of an excessive deficit in France in accordance with article 104(12).

France’s EDP procedure was started in 2003 on the basis of a deficit of 3.1 per cent. in 2002. In January 2005, the Council concurred with the Commission view that 2005 was to be considered the relevant deadline for the correction of the excessive deficit. In November 2006, the Commission recommended that the Council abrogate the excessive deficit procedure concerning France, since the deficit fell to 2.9 per cent. of GDP in 2005 and is projected to decrease further.

Preparation of the European Council (8-9 March 2007)

ECOFIN will discuss a series of items in preparation for the spring European Council. These orientation debates will cover:

Key Issues Paper

Ministers will hold an orientation report on the ECOFIN key issues paper, which is a set piece document that both responds to the Commission’s annual progress report on implementation of the Lisbon agenda and sets out ECOFIN’s priorities on economic reform issues as a contribution to the spring European Council.

This discussion will inform the drafting of the paper, which ECOFIN expects to adopt at its February meeting.

Lisbon Strategy: Commission Progress Report

Ministers will also discuss the Commission annual progress report, which reports on the implementation of the Lisbon agenda. The Commission notes good progress across member states.

The Commission’s 2007 reform priorities for the EU as a whole are based on the four priority areas identified by the 2006 spring European Council, which correspond closely to the Hampton Court workstreams: creating an innovation-friendly, modern Europe; unlocking business potential (particularly SMEs); increased adaptability of labour markets; and energy and climate change.

Updating the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines 2005-08

ECOFIN will also discuss the updating of the broad economic policy guidelines for 2005-08. Together with the employment guidelines these form the integrated guidelines, which recommend priority actions for member states. No conclusions will be adopted.

Reducing Administrative Burden: Commission Reports

An orientation debate is expected on the Commission reports on reducing administrative burdens in the EU. This will provide an opportunity for Finance Ministers to discuss the Commission’s better regulation plans and emphasise the need to make concrete progress on reducing EU administrative burdens on business.

Convergence Reports by the Commission and the European Central Bank

The Commission and the ECB will present their December 2006 convergence reports. The reports outline the views of the ECB and the Commission on where nine countries stand against the five Maastricht criteria for euro entry. Sweden and all member states that joined in 2004 are covered, with the exception of Slovenia and Lithuania, whose assessment took place in May 2006. The UK and Denmark are not covered due to their opt-out status.

Discussion is likely to be limited, as the Commission has concluded that none of the member states assessed has met all the convergence criteria.

Enlargement of the Euro Area— Current Status of Slovenia’s Adoption of the Euro

The Commission will deliver a presentation on Slovenia’s adoption of the euro. A related Commission paper considers that the introduction to the euro in Slovenia has been successful. This is expected to be a short agenda item and no conclusions are expected.