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EU: Economic and Financial Affairs Council

Volume 693: debated on Monday 9 July 2007

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held on 10 July in Brussels. The items on the agenda are as follows:

Presidency Work Programme

The Portuguese presidency will present its work programme for the next six months. It is likely to concentrate on an economic policy oriented towards growth and stability, in particular the quality of public finances, the Lisbon strategy, and the strict application of the stability and growth pact and the enlargement of the euro area. It also intends to focus on better regulation, completing the internal market and approval of the 2008 EU budget.

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers will discuss the stability programme for Austria and the convergence programme for the Czech Republic. All other member states were discussed at ECOFIN in February and March, but the process for these two countries was delayed because of changes in government. Excessive deficit procedures against the Czech Republic and Hungary will also be discussed. The UK supports a prudent interpretation of the stability and growth pact (SGP) which takes into account the level of debt, the influence of the cycle and the level of public investment, and ensures that any recommendations reflect each member state's economic position.

Adoption of the Euro

Ministers will adopt legal acts allowing Cyprus and Malta to join the euro on 1 January 2008. Heads of state and Government at the European Council considered a letter from ECOFIN and agreed with the finance Ministers' recommendation that both countries should be allowed to adopt the euro.

Public Finances in EMU 2007

Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the Commission report, which is an annual publication and was accompanied by a Commission communication outlining proposals to improve the functioning of the SGP. The report focuses on ways to keep up the momentum of fiscal adjustment so as to make rapid progress towards the achievement of sustainable fiscal positions.

Relations with Third Countries

There will be a debriefing by the presidency and the Commission on the EU-US summit of 30 April 2007 and an exchange of views on economic, financial and regulatory aspects of dialogues with other third countries.

International Accounting Standards Board: governance and financing

Ministers will be asked to agree council conclusions, which acknowledge the steps taken by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and its associated bodies to improve governance and also make a number of suggestions to improve further both IASB governance and the funding regime going forward.

Global Navigation Satellite System (Galileo)

There will be an exchange of views on the financing of the Galileo project. The UK will continue to push for full clarity on costs and a solution that avoids any reopening or revision of the financial perspective.