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ECOFIN: 21 March 2017

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2017

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) was held in Brussels on 21 March 2017. EU Finance Ministers discussed the following items:

Early morning session

The Eurogroup president briefed Ministers on the outcomes of the 20 March meeting of the Eurogroup. Ministers discussed the current economic situation. The European Commission presented its review of national provisions adopted in compliance with the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union (the fiscal compact) conducted in accordance with article 8 of the fiscal compact, which was followed by an exchange of views by Ministers. Austrian Finance Minister Schelling explained his views as regard a proposed fine for the manipulation of debt statistics in Austrian land of Salzburg, and the Polish delegation, on behalf of the Chairman of the EIB’s board of governors, outlined the suggested process for the upcoming election of the EIB president.

Reduced VAT rate for electronically supplied publications (e-publications)

Ministers discussed political issues in relation to the proposal for a Council directive regarding rates of value added tax applied to books, newspapers and periodicals. The proposal would give member states the ability to apply reduced rates or a zero VAT rate to e-publications and physical publications.

General reverse charge mechanism

Ministers discussed the political issues in relation to the general reverse charge mechanism (GRCM). This is a proposal for an amendment to Council directive 2006/112/ on the common system of value added tax to allow the temporary application of a GRCM to supplies of goods and services above a certain threshold, with the aim of combatting VAT fraud.

Current financial service legislative proposals

The Council presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.

European Semester 2017:

a) 2017 country reports and in-depth reviews

b) Implementation of country-specific recommendations (CSRs)

Following a presentation by the Commission, Ministers discussed the country reports published by the Commission on 22 February, including the assessment of CSR implementation and, where relevant, the framework of the macroeconomic imbalance procedure. The Czech Republic, Italy and Slovenia were invited to reflect on their experiences of implementing reforms to the business environment, followed by an exchange of views.

Follow-up to the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on 17-18 March 2017 in Baden-Baden

The presidency and the Commission informed Ministers on the outcomes of the G20 meeting.

Any other business

a) European Defence Fund

The Commission informed Ministers about its European defence action plan, focusing in particular on the launch of a European defence fund. This item was delayed from February ECOFIN.

b) Status of implementation of financial services legislation

The Commission informed Ministers on the status of implementation of financial services legislation.