Eurogroup President Spokesperson
Good afternoon and welcome to this press conference in a quite impressive venue. Let me start by thanking Janis Reirs for hosting us so well in Riga. Today we were joined in our meeting by Daniele Nouy, who is a chair of the the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SMM) and by the new Estonian Finance Minister, Sven Sester, who also informed us about new government and their ambition.
I realise that all eyes are on Greece. But today was a regular Eurogroup so we had a full agenda. We also talked about the situation in Cyprus and in Spain. We discussed the report on the SSM and exchanged views on the implementation of the recommendations addressed to the euro area as a whole. As you know, this is part of the Eurogroup's thematic discussions to promote growth enhancing structural reforms.
Today, the institutions informed us about the ongoing talks with the Greek authorities and we took stock of the situation.
As agreed in February, a comprehensive and detailed list of agreed reforms is needed as a basis for a successful conclusion of the current review. I would like to reiterate again that a comprehensive deal is necessary before any disbursements can take place.
Over the past few weeks, there have been intense discussions between the Greek authorities and the institutions. I understand that there have been recently some positive signs, but there are still wide differences to cover and to bridge on substance.
We are all aware that time is running out. Too much time has been lost in the past two months. It is therefore clear that these discussions need to make significantly more progress, so that the institutions can give their green light on the comprehensive package which will then go to the Eurogroup for the political decision. The responsibility for that lies mainly on the side of the Greek authorities. Finding an agreement is first and foremost in Greece's interest.
I would also like to reiterate that the agreement of 20 February remains our framework for reaching a deal.
We will take stock of the situation again at our next regular Eurogroup in May.
Today we were also joined by Daniele Nouy for the first Eurogroup hearing, this is a Eurogroup and banking union format. Eurogroup hearing of the Single Supervisory Mechanism Chair. These special hearings are an important part of the way we intend to run the banking union.
We have made a lot of progress in a very short time in this area. A lot of work has been done by the SSM and ECB. We are now focussing on the full establishment of the banking union on 1 of January 2016 and on the co-operation between its two pillars. We agreed the importance that Member States transpose the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) without further delay and it is also important that Member States ratify the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on the Single Resolution Fund (SRF) as quickly as possible.
Ministers also supported a concerted work effort on national options and discretions in order to move as rapidly as possible to a more level playing field within the Banking Union.
Our thematic discussions on jobs and growth have become an important part of the regular Eurogroup meetings. Today, we took stock of the implementation of last year's recommendations to the euro area as a whole in the context of the European Semester. Structural reforms are a key part of these recommendations. We based our discussion on the Commission's euro area report.
We agreed to continue and intensify these Eurogroup thematic discussions. This will involve benchmarking of some policies against best practice.
We also agreed on some key policy issues that we will be taking up until the end of the year. This will include services market reforms and the link between pension reforms and fiscal sustainability. We will also take another look at Member States' efforts to reduce the high tax burden on labour, which is also one of the ambition of the new Estonian government.
The aim of our discussions is to stimulate convergence by bringing our key policies closer to best practice, by improving adjustment capacity and resilience to shocks through out the euro area. Continuing on this reform-path is key to boost the recovery and to improve the growth potential and employment prospects through out our region.
We were debriefed by the Commission and the ECB on the main findings of their third post-programme surveillance mission to Spain that took place in mid-March. In which also the ESM was involved.
We welcomed the significant progress made by Spain. All indicators are showing a progress in both budgetary and economic terms.
We also realize that debt and unemployment remain high. So, clearly there are still important challenges ahead.
We are confident that Spain will maintain its good track record and adhere to its commitments under the surveillance framework.
Also on Cyprus I can share a good news with you.
We were informed that on 17 April the Cypriot parliament legislated to establish an insolvency framework and that will also make an end to the suspension of the foreclosure framework. Which if I am informed correctly is coming to place on 6 May. This framework is needed to restore compliance with the prior actions of the fifth review. We therefore welcomed this important step bringing the programme back on track, which will allow the institutions to return to Nicosia to carry out the next review.
Another important development is that Cyprus lifted the last remaining capital controls on April 6th. Free circulation of capital has thus now been restored.