My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Statement.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held on 10 July in Brussels. The items on the agenda were as follows:
Presidency Work Programme
The Portuguese presidency presented its work programme for the next six months. This includes: economic policy, in particular the enlargement of the euro area, the implementation of the stability and growth pact, improving the quality of public finances, the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth, and the mid-term review of the European growth initiative; the EU’s better regulation initiative; completion of the EU’s internal market; and the EU’s budget for 2008.
Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact
Ministers agreed Council opinions on the stability programme for Austria and the convergence programme for the Czech Republic. Euro-area member states are required every year to present stability programmes, and non-euro-area member states convergence programmes under the terms of the stability and growth pact. Ministers agreed a decision that the Czech Republic has not complied with the terms of its excessive deficit procedure, and examined a communication from the Commission that concludes that Hungary is taking sufficient action in response to its excessive deficit procedure.
Ministers adopted decisions allowing Cyprus and Malta to join the euro on 1 January 2008 and regulations setting permanent conversion rates for the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira against the euro.
Public Finances in 2007
Ministers held an exchange of views on the Commission report, which contained proposals aimed at strengthening the functioning of the preventive arm of the stability and growth pact. Ministers expect to return to the topic at ECOFIN in October.
International Accounting Standards Board: Governance and Financing
Ministers agreed conclusions emphasising the importance of international financial reporting standards for EU financial markets and the need for strong governance and stable funding of the International Accounting Standards Board.
Global Navigation Satellite System (Galileo)
Ministers held an exchange of views on the possible additional public financing of Galileo, the EU’s global satellite navigation system. The UK continued to push for full clarity on costs and a solution that avoids any reopening or revision of the financial perspective.
IMF Managing Director
Following the resignation of the IMF director, Rodrigo de Rato, ECOFIN also discussed the appointment of a successor. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was suggested as a European candidate. Whilst the Chancellor stressed that he would be a strong and credible candidate, he said that it was important for the IMF to run an open and competitive process for the managing director post.