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Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009


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

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 10 February 2009. The following items are on the agenda.

Preparation of the meeting of the European Council

European economic recovery plan

Ministers will hold a debate on the current state of implementation of the European economic recovery plan (EERP), including a first horizontal evaluation report from the European Commission. The Government are a firm supporter of the timely, targeted and temporary measures taken at national level under the framework of the EERP to stimulate growth in the EU.

ECOFIN will also exchange views on the financial aspects of the Commission's proposals for energy and broadband projects to be funded through the EU budget. The Government will continue to scrutinise the Commission's proposals in detail.

Key issues paper

ECOFIN will have an orientation debate on its main contribution to the spring 2009 European Council—the key issues paper on economic and financial issues. The paper itself will be agreed in March before the European Council, and the presidency has provided a proposed outline. The Government support the outline, which emphasises the challenges in 2009, and the remaining need for action to stabilise financial markets and facilitate a speedy economic recovery.

Reduced rates of VAT

Following discussions in January, the presidency will seek political views from member states on the way forward to a possible compromise on reduced rates of VAT by the spring. The Government believe that member states should be allowed the flexibility to apply reduced rates of VAT where they do not materially affect the functioning of the single market.

General budget of the EU: Discharge procedure in respect of the implementation of the budget for 2007

ECOFIN is expected to approve the recommendation to the European Parliament on the discharge to be given to the Commission for the implementation of the 2007 general budget. The UK welcomes the references within the recommendation relating to the key role of member states in improving financial management and accountability of EU funds under shared management.