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 in Brussels on 12 February 2008. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury attended for the UK. The items on the agenda were as follows:
Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Stability and Convergence Programmes: First series of Member States
Ministers adopted council opinions on the stability programmes of Germany, Italy, Finland, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands and on the convergence programmes of the UK, Hungary, Sweden, Romania and Slovakia. The UK supports a prudent interpretation of the stability and growth pact (SGP) which takes into account the economic cycle, sustainability and the important role of public investment.
Preparation of the European Council (13 and 14 March)
Contribution to the Spring European Council Conclusions: Key Issues Paper—Ministers adopted a key issues paper ahead of the spring European Council. This paper is comprised of five sections: an overview of the economic situation; structural reform for growth and jobs; public finances; financial markets and European monetary union. Annexed to the key issues paper is an opinion on the Community Lisbon programme (the proposed set of Community-level actions to support the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth). The UK endorses the paper and looks forward to discussion of these issues at the spring Council.
Efficiency of Economic Instruments for Energy and Climate Change—Ministers agreed a set of conclusions stressing the importance of the efficiency of economic instruments for energy and climate change, based on a report from the EPC working group on climate change. The UK strongly supports these conclusions and believes that it is crucial for finance Ministers to engage with this important agenda. Work on the economic dimension of energy and climate change and on the international financing aspects of global action will now continue at working group level with a view to providing an update to ECOFIN in the autumn of 2008.
Ministers exchanged views on better regulation in view of the recent publication of the European Commission’s second “strategic review”. Ministers agreed that this was an important agenda that all council formations should engage with. The UK supports the positive efforts of the Commission and welcomes the progress made both at member states and EU level towards reducing administrative burdens in the EU.
General Budget of the European Union—Discharge procedure in respect of the implementation of the Budget for 2006
Ministers adopted a recommendation for discharge of the 2006 EU Budget, on which the European Court of Auditors presented its report to ECOFIN in November 2007. The UK particularly supported the emphasis put on the need for all actors involved in the implementation of EU expenditure to continue to improve the functioning of supervisory and control systems in order to make further progress towards achieving a positive statement of assurance in all areas of the EC budget.