The Eurogroup discussed the euro area member states' draft budgetary plans for 2016. These plans have to be submitted each year by 15 October, and the European Commission assesses whether they comply with the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).
The Eurogroup broadly concurred with the European Commission's opinions, published on 17 November 2015.
According to the Commission's findings, four countries - Austria, Italy, Lithuania and Spain - have budgetary plans that are at risk of non-compliance with the SGP rules.
The Eurogroup welcomed the commitment of Austria, Italy and Lithuania to ensure compliance with the rules. It also looked forward to the submission of an updated draft budgetary plan for Spain and was reassured that Portugal would submit its draft budgetary plan as soon as possible.
The Eurogroup took note of the Commission's assessment that the broadly neutral fiscal stance at euro area level is appropriate considering the still timid economic recovery. It furthermore stressed the importance of using the current low interest rate environment prudently, and enhancing the quality of public finances by prioritising growth-enhancing measures.
Ministers also agreed with the Commission that the SGP rules provide for sufficient flexibility to address the budgetary implications of the country-specific developments such as the refugee inflow in certain member states.
The Eurogroup welcomed the assessment by the European Commission and the European Central Bank that the Greek authorities had successfully implemented the first set of milestones and the financial sector reform measures that are necessary for the successful recapitalisation of the Greek banking sector.
Following the positive assessment, the board of directors of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) formally authorised the disbursement of €2 billion in financial assistance to Greece, as provided for under the programme.
In addition, up to €10 billion of funds earmarked for the recapitalisation of Greek banks can now be made available too. These funds will be released to the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) on a case-by-case basis, as required, upon a decision of the ESM board of directors following the European Commission's decisions relating to state aid.
The Eurogroup calls on the Greek authorities to step up their efforts and closely cooperate with the Commission, the ECB and the IMF on a second and final set of milestones under the first tranche (which would unlock the disbursement of a further €1 billion) and the measures pertaining to the first review.