Prague, March 6th, 2009
The EU Finance and Economy Ministers will meet on 10 March in Brussels, already their third meeting this year. The ECOFIN Council will be chaired by Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek.
Addressing the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, the ministers will first evaluate and give their opinions on the stabilisation and convergence programmes of most of the Member States.
The main point on the agenda will be the preparation for the Spring European Council, to take place on 19 and 20 March in Brussels.
The ministers will adopt the Key Issues Paper on economic and financial issues for 2009. This will be the main contribution of the ECOFIN Council to the spring summit. The proposal focuses above all on financial markets and various aspects of measures to support the real economy.
The Council will also outline a proposal for joint communications from the European countries for the upcoming G20 summit on 2 April in London, which will be preceded by a meeting of G20 Finance Ministers on 14 March. The final EU position for the G20 summit is expected to be approved by the Heads of State or Government at the Spring European Council in March.
Next on the agenda is the approval of the report for the European Council containing integrated recommendations for the individual Member States as regards the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. These recommendations regarding macroeconomic policies, structural reforms as well as the labour market are presented by the Council to individual Member States and the euro area as a whole on the basis of national reform programmes and reports on their implementation.
With regard to the Economic Recovery Plan adopted by the December European Council, the ECOFIN Council was given the task to come up with proposals settling the issue of reduced VAT rates in certain sectors by March 2009. In keeping with this task, a compromise proposal for political agreement concerning items where a reduced rate could be applied will be submitted to the Finance ministers.
This year’s spring summit is, among other things, expected to lay the foundations for a future EU position for the talks on a new international agreement on the fight against climate change, to be concluded at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December. The ECOFIN Council will contribute to this by adopting conclusions on international financial arrangements to combat climate change.
Traditionally, the March meeting of the ECOFIN Council addresses the EU budget for the coming year. In this respect, the Council will adopt conclusions on the priorities for the EU budget for 2010.
At the meeting the finance ministers of all the Member States will also sign the Convention on Centralised Customs Clearance which will simplify the clearance technicalities to a great extent. For example, in certain cases, it will be possible to submit the customs declaration at one customs office and declare the goods themselves at any other EU customs office.
Radka Kohutová, Spokeswoman of the Ministry of Finance
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