Following the Eurogroupe meeting of 17 January 2022 that focused on economic adjustment and resilience, the euro area fiscal framework and the state of play on the strengthening of the banking union.
I’m going to begin by extending my best wishes to everybody for the new year. Today we paid tribute to the recent passing away of the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli. We then welcomed the new members of the Eurogroup. We have four new colleagues who joined us today – Christian Lindner, Sigrid Kaag, Yuriko Backes and Magnus Brunner. We opened up our meeting by giving each of them the opportunity to outline their priorities for the year to come.
In terms of the policy discussion that we had, our first agenda item was to compare the performance of the euro area at this stage of recovery from the pandemic vs. the performance that we are seeing in other parts of the world. This was facilitated through a paper prepared by Commissioner Gentiloni and a presentation from the chief economist of the OECD, Laurence Boone. What this discussion underlined for all of us is that the efforts that we have made to help the European economy recover from COVID-19 have been appropriate, they have been of the right scale, and they’ve made a huge difference to helping the people of the European Union. If I look at where we are now, we can now see an economic recovery that is strong despite the many risks, the many challenges. For many members of the European Union, we can see that the levels of economic output are already at where they were before the pandemic or they are getting close to that point. What we also discussed is the impact of our measures in preserving employment, preserving income and in creating savings. We believe in the positive impact that our measures have had in helping our economies recover.
We continue to be very much aware of the risks and challenges that lie ahead. This is why the second item on our agenda was a discussion on where we are with corporate solvency and the potential vulnerability that employers could face as we move away from general levels of economic support to more focussed levels of economic support. We had a good discussion in relation to this, and we heard from the Commission about the different policy areas that they are prioritising. It is important to help employers to be ready for this moment of change. We have had insolvency levels that have been lower than they would be in normal times during the more difficult moments of the pandemic. As we move into 2022, we continue, I hope, to be able to make changes in our levels of intervention as we move to a different point in dealing with the pandemic. We agreed this is something that we want to keep focusing on. We’ll continue to monitor this and discuss the changes that we can make in insolvency procedures at national level. Many of us already have measures in place at national level to help our economies and workers to transition to new and growing parts of our economy.
We then moved on to the endorsement of the recommendation on economic policy of the euro area. This was actually quite a short discussion, given the consensus that we’ve had in place before this meeting and all of the work that was done to get ready for our agreement today. So we agreed on the right fiscal stance for the euro area for 2022, and we agreed on the kind of policies that need to be put in place this year to help sustain our recovery. But we were also clear on the areas of progress that we need to make. In a moment I will get to the Banking Union and capital markets union.
Before that, we had our first substantive discussion on the euro area dimension of the economic governance framework. And in this part of our meeting, we heard many views from governments in relation to the draft budgetary plan process, in relation to the surveillance procedures that are in place, in relation to the fiscal rules, in relation to the value of national economic policy coordination, and also in relation to how we can ensure that we have commitments that are in place regarding our national finances, that they are fulfilled and that they are overseen in a transparent way. This was the first discussion on this particular topic. It’s fair to say and indeed evident that we will have many other discussions on this topic in the period ahead. But we did have a good tone in this discussion, colleagues intervened aware of the importance of this discussion and while outlining their national views, they were aware of the need to find agreement in this area as we will move through 2022.
In inclusive format, we then moved on to a debrief on the eurozone summit and an assessment of where we stand with the Banking Union. I emphasised to colleagues that there is an economic imperative upon us to act. There is also a window of opportunity politically during which we needed to take action. This was endorsed by all ministers. In the coming period I will bring forward a further initiative on Banking Union that will lay out how we want to reach progress and reach agreement on the different work streams and files. To emphasise, this is not about reaching agreement on a particular policy area within Banking Union, at this point. It is about a process for moving forward all the projects in Banking Union and reaching agreement about how we will sequence them and how we will engage within them.
So we covered a lot in our first Eurogroup meeting of the New Year. We also had an opportunity to assess where we are with the implementation of the revised ESM treaty, which the Eurogroup continues to be committed to delivering. I’m confident that we will make progress on Banking Union and equally confident that we will have a political environment and political space within which we can engage with the review of the fiscal rules and be of assistance, I hope, to Paolo in his efforts to move forward this vital process for the European Union
Visit the meeting page