My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Statement.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 4 March 2008. The items on the agenda are as follows:
Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Stability and Convergence Programmes: First series of Member States
Ministers will be invited to adopt council opinions on the stability programmes of Austria, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, and on the convergence programmes of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark and Lithuania. 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)
Broad Economic Policy Guidelines 2008-10/11 and Country-Specific Integrated Recommendations—This discussion follows the orientation debate on these documents at the January ECOFIN and further drafting amendments in the Economic Policy Committee and Economic and Financial Committee. Following Ministers’ discussions, ECOFIN will send a report to the spring 2008 European Council with its reformulated draft texts for endorsement by heads, as part of the launch of the next three-year cycle of the Lisbon strategy.
Financial Stability—Ministers will prepare the spring European Council’s discussion on issues related to financial stability. Ministers will discuss the causes and possible policy responses to recent financial turbulence, and will prepare contribution for heads of state and Government on the matter.
Sovereign Wealth Funds—Ministers will prepare the spring European Council’s discussion on sovereign wealth funds. This follows the publication of a communication by the European Commission, which discusses the framework for investments made by sovereign wealth funds.
General Budget of the European Union—Council priorities for the 2009 budget
Ministers will be invited to adopt conclusions agreeing the council’s budget guidelines for the 2009 EC budget. These guidelines are a set of broad principles which are designed to inform the subsequent and more detailed discussions on the level of appropriations required for the different areas of the budget. The subsequent negotiations throughout 2008 will determine the amounts to be spent under each budget heading.
Fight against tax fraud—Following discussion of the issue at ECOFIN in December 2007, Ministers will be asked to agree conclusions on work to improve arrangements to combat tax fraud, which have been prepared on the basis of a report by the Commission. The UK is strongly supportive of work that will help in the fight against missing trader intra-community and other VAT fraud, while remaining committed to minimising the burdens on legitimate businesses.
Taxation of savings—Ministers will hear an update from the European Commission on progress made in extending the framework of the EU savings directive to third countries. The savings directive enshrines the principle of exchange of information on taxation of savings and extends beyond the EU through agreements with third countries and territories.