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Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2010

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 16 February 2010. The following items were discussed:

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

ECOFIN issued new recommendations to Malta, Romania and Lithuania, extending the deadlines for correcting their excessive deficits on account of the worse than expected deterioration of their economies. The Council also established that Latvia, Hungary and Poland had taken effective action on their Council recommendations.

The Council also adopted an opinion on Greece’s updated stability programme, which sets out plans to reduce its deficit to under 3 per cent. of GDP by 2012; a further decision which sets out budgetary consolidation measures with a timetable; a recommendation with a view to bringing Greece’s economic policies in line with the EU’s broad economic guidelines; and a decision to make this recommendation public.

The Government believe that Greece must act swiftly to implement these recommendations in line with the given timetable, and welcome the evaluation by the European Commission and ECB as well as the technical assistance being provided by the IMF, which has the experience to play an important supportive role. ECOFIN will return to this issue in March, where it will review progress made, including the further measures the Greek Government have agreed to take.

Single market—Services Directive

ECOFIN discussed and agreed a set of conclusions on the EU single market and the services directive, which called for comprehensive and ambitious implementation of the Directive. The Council also heard a presentation by Mario Monti ahead of his proposals in April for the re-launch of the single market. The Government support the conclusions and the work by Mario Monti, particularly his focus on open markets. It is important ECOFIN takes a view on strategic economic issues for the single market agenda.

Appointment of the Vice-President of the European Central Bank

The Council adopted a recommendation on the nomination of Vítor Constâncioas as Vice-President of the European Central Bank, to succeed Lucas Papademos, whose term of office expires on 31 May. This recommendation will now be submitted to the European Council for approval.

Discharge procedure in respect of the implementation of the budget for 2008

On the basis of a report from the Court of Auditors, the Council approved a recommendation to the European Parliament on the discharge to be given to the Commission for implementation of the EU’s general budget for 2008.