Budgetary plans and prospects
At its morning session the Eurogroup discussed the euro area member states' draft budgetary plans for 2017. The discussion was based on the European Commission's opinions on these plans, published on 16 November. According to the Commission's findings, eight countries - Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain - have budgetary plans that are at risk of non-compliance with the fiscal rules specified in the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).
The Eurogroup broadly concurred with the European Commission's opinions. It invited Italy to take necessary steps and welcomed the commitment of other countries concerned to ensure compliance with the rules. The Eurogroup also looked forward to the submission of updated draft budgetary plans by Lithuania and Spain.
Ministers also discussed the budgetary situation and prospects for the euro area as a whole. They underlined the importance of striking the right balance between ensuring fiscal sustainability and supporting investment to strengthen the fragile recovery.
The Eurogroup took note of the Commission Communication and analysis of the fiscal stance calling for a positive fiscal stance in the euro area. It recalled that in July, Ministers concluded, on the basis of Commission analysis, that the broadly neutral aggregate fiscal stance in 2017 strikes an appropriate balance. The Eurogroup highlighted that there a considerable differences across member states in terms of fiscal space and budgetary consolidation needs. Ministers furthermore stressed the importance of a growth-friendly composition of budgetary measures.
To ensure better coordination of national fiscal policies, the euro area member states have to submit their draft budgetary plans for the European Commission's evaluation between 1 and 15 October each year. Greece's draft budgetary plan was not evaluated in this exercise because it is assessed separately, as part of Greece's ongoing macroeconomic adjustment programme.
The Eurogroup was briefed by the institutions on the state of play of the second review of the economic adjustment programme, following the review mission which the institutions conducted mid-November. The Eurogroup welcomed the progress so far and called on the Greek authorities and the institutions to swiftly resume negotiations and agree on a policy reform package shared by all stakeholders.
A statement was issued endorsing a package of short term debt measures and outlining a way forward.
Eurogroup work programme
The Eurogroup adopted its work programme for the first half of 2017.