Remarks by J.Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 26 January 2017
Good evening and welcome to this Eurogroup press conference. Today we welcomed to the Eurogroup the new Minister of Finance of Lithuania, Vilius Šapoka, who informed us of the new government's plan and priorities; we also welcomed Sabine Lautenschläger, Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). She came in specially to talk about the report of the European Court of Auditors on the FSM.
First let me say some words on the euro area economy. We had a good exchange today with the IMF on the findings of their interim mission relating to the Article IV consultations with the euro area. Growth in the euro area is firming and broadering in many countries -for the first time since the crisis all euro area Member States are forecast to grow again. Of course there are risks: risks from the inside relating to political instability or possible instability, and risks from the outside related to a new government in the US and the BREXIT. We have achieved a lot in the last few years, and we have left the crisis behind but at this juncture, it seems particularly important to reaffirm our continuous support for global free trade and the deepening of our single internal market. Both of which can and should deliver higher potential growth. So we should keep driving for open markets, to achieve more growth, job creation and improvement of living standards.
Second let me talk about Greece. We were first debriefed by the ESM on the implementation of the short term debt measures. I am sure Klaus Regling would say more about that.
Then we were informed by the institutions on the state of play of the second review. The good news is that the Greek economy is recovering faster than anyone expected. There are also strong dynamics on the fiscal side, with better than expected revenues. We have also heard that Greece is set to over perform its 2016 fiscal target.
And there is a clear understanding that a quick finalisation of the second review is in everyone's interest and will continue to support the positive trend in the economy.
The institutions and the Greek authorities will remain engaged in constructive discussions to solve the outstanding issues. We have encouraged them to accelerate that work, with a view to a quick return of the mission to Athens and reach a staff level agreement as soon as possible.
Third, on post-programme surveillance, the institutions debriefed us on the main findings of their missions to Ireland and Portugal.
As regards Ireland, we were very pleased to hear about the excellent economic and fiscal performance, while also noting some risks associated with the economic environment, of course especially at the UK "leave" vote. I think Michael Noonan the Irish minister said with his welknown Celtic under statement: "We are in a pretty good shape", and that basically sums up the mission to Ireland.
On Portugal, it was good to learn that the recovery is underway and progress achieved on the fiscal and financial sector front. However, there are important risks in the medium term and there is no room for complacency. It is crucial that Portugal commits and stays committed to the reform agenda, given the need to boost potential growth also in the context of the still high debt and volatile market conditions. The Portuguese government is aware of these challenges and determined to tackle them.
Fourth, we discussed the Draft Budgetary Plans (DBPs) of Spain and Lithuania. I can be brief here as we have issued a statement on this topic.
The Eurogroup agrees with the Commission's Opinion that the budget of Spain is broadly compliant with the requirements of the SGP and that the budget of Lithuania is at risk of non-compliance. We also noted that the Commission will assess the Lithuanian authorities' application, for the flexibility clause related to their structural reforms and Commission will come back to that in spring.
And as stated at our previous meeting the Eurogroup will follow progress made with respect to the implementation of the DBPs plans and additional commitments that were made by ministers, following-up on the next assessments from the Commission, currently planned for March 2017. So we will come back to the budgetary plans in March.
We were informed by the Commission about the report on compliance with the Fiscal Compact. This report is almost finished and it will come available in the coming weeks.
Finally, we exchanged views on the recommendations of the European Court of Auditors' Special Report on the Single Supervisory Mechanism. We fully agree with the overall assessment of the Report. And I have to say that the ECB has been very effective in setting up the SSM in a very short period of time. Really great work. The Report does deliver a number of recommendations for further improvements and the ECB has been very clear that they will take on those recommendations and work on those improvements and we will take stock of the follow-up in the coming months in the framework of our regular dialogue with the SSM.
That's my introduction.