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Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 30 November 2011. The following items are on the agenda:

Annual Growth Survey

The Commission will present the Annual Growth Survey (published 23 November) for information. The Government support the document's strong positive messages on both fiscal consolidation and the need for ambitious structural reforms. However, the Government recall that member states and the EU have a shared responsibility for implementing structural reforms in support of growth. The Government also consider that tax policy is a matter for individual member states to decide, and does not consider that tax co-ordination in the EU is a priority for stimulating growth.

Second economic governance package

The Commission is expected to present three elements of a new package: a proposal for a regulation on enhanced surveillance of euro area member states that are either experiencing severe financial disturbance or requesting financial assistance; a further proposal for a regulation for enhanced budgetary co-ordination and surveillance of euro area member states, especially those that are already the subject of action under the excessive deficit procedure set out in the treaty; and a green paper setting out three options for the issuance of “stability” bonds in the euro area, which is intended to launch a public consultation on this subject. The Government are considering the proposals and options.

Economic and financial impact of EU legislation

The Council will discuss draft conclusions on the presidency’s proposal that ECOFIN should assess the impact of new EU legislation on growth and jobs. The Government support this objective.

Annual Report of the Court of Auditors on the 2010 EU Budget

The European Court of Auditors will present its report. It will be examined early in 2012, in advance of an ECOFIN vote on a recommendation for the European Parliament to grant discharge of the EU’s accounts for 2010. The Government consider that the failure to achieve a positive statement of assurance on the majority of payments from the EU budget year after year is unacceptable, and undermines confidence in the implementation of EU expenditure.

EU Statistics

Ministers will discuss draft conclusions on proposals to strengthen statistical governance. The Government support the general principles underlying these proposals; however, they will seek to work with other member states to ensure that national specificities are properly taken into account as the legislation passes through Council.

Council will also seek agreement on nominations to the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board.

Code of Conduct (business taxation)

ECOFIN will adopt conclusions on the work of the code of conduct group over the last six months. The code of conduct is an EU-level political agreement between member states to work co-operatively to identify and eliminate harmful business tax measures in the EU and prevent the introduction of new ones. The code group’s report is a standing ECOFIN agenda item at the end of each presidency.

Economic situation, including banking package

Ministers will discuss the economic situation. In particular, they will focus on the appropriateness of an EU-level co-ordinated approach to bank funding guarantees, as agreed at the European Council on 26 October. The European Commission currently sets a range of minimum criteria and guarantee fees under the state aid framework and the Commission is expected to present options for further co-ordination of bank funding guarantees provided by national Governments.

The Government believe decisive action is needed to bring stability to the markets and provide the basis for long-term debt sustainability. The Government support the principle of co-ordinated bank funding guarantee schemes, conditional on maintaining national control over the provision of these guarantees. However, the Government would not support any proposals that expose the UK to the liabilities of banks elsewhere in the EU.

Nomination procedure for the EIB President

Ministers will discuss the nomination procedure for the EIB president. Philippe Maystadt, the current EIB president, was appointed in January 2000. It is permissible for him to be re-appointed when his current term ends in December 2011. Other candidates are standing.