Remarks by J. Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 7 March 2016
Porte-parole du président de l'Eurogroupe
Good evening everyone and welcome to the press conference. Today we welcomed one new colleague, the new Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozolato. She presented herself the ambitions of the new government in Latvia and we welcomed here, and wished her, of course, all the best.
The first topic on our agenda was Greece. We discussed the state of play, in particular of course of the first review, what the next steps could be. The outcome of that is that the mission chiefs will return to Athens. I'm not sure when exactly, perhaps already tomorrow. There is enough common ground, enough preparation has been done for their mission to continue, hopefully to work towards a successful completion. We realise that if we want to complete, fully comply to what has been agreed this summer, more work will have to be done. So the first outcome of the Eurogroup today is that the mission chiefs will return to Athens, the second one is that we stressed that more work needs to be done, more effort needs to be put in for that to be a good outcome. There are still fiscal gaps to be filled and some of the reforms will have to be deepened.
So we called on both the institutions but specifically also on the Greek government to deliver that extra effort. On their return, which of course we don't know when that will be, we will have to take a political decision which also concerns the issue of debt and debt management, debt relief. As you know, we have a longstanding promise that if the Greek government fulfils its commitments in the programme and delivers a primary surplus, we will do what is necessary to make the annual debt surplus manageable, and that today also in Eurogroup we have realised and made explicit that that discussion is going to be on our table in the near future. So we will seriously try to bring those work strands together in the coming months. So that's where we are on Greece and work will continue. We have a joint interest to do it as quickly as possible.
Secondly, we had a broad discussion on the success and the finalisation of the Cypriot programme. Our Cypriot colleague had quite an interesting presentation showing all the good results that have come from the sometimes difficult measures and deep reforms that have taken place in Cyprus. The programme now comes to an end at the end of this month. The same will go for the IMF part of the programme that actually had a different ending date, but will also come to an end at the end of March. We have issued a statement on that. There is still one prior action outstanding, but overall the Cypriot authorities have delivered a very very good job. Cyprus can now fund itself and many of the fiscal, financial and structural reforms undertaken have put Cyprus back on a path of sustainable growth. And they are very determined to hold on to that accomplishment and to tackle the remaining challenges. So, many compliments to Cyprus on that achievement.
The third item on our agenda, was the follow-up on the implementation of draft budgetary plans and the commitments of the Eurogroup statements of November and February. In February we discussed Portugal as you remember. So perhaps I'll leave it mainly for Pierre to tell you more about that. We have also put out a statement on that work.
Finally, we discussed a couple of issues regarding the work of the Eurogroup. If you remember last month we already discussed transparency and the outcome of that was that we would, in advance, publish annotated agendas and that has happened, in advance of the Eurogroup. And the publishing of the summing up letter, also this has happened for the first time. I hope you've all taken notice of that. To complement that work, we today agreed on publishing documents, final documents after Eurogroup meetings, unless there are well-founded objections coming from the authors. Most of the time the Eurogroup itself is not the author or the owner of the documents. It is sometimes the Commission, sometimes the ESM, sometimes others, but the principle is that as much as possible and as soon as possible these documents will be made public after our meetings. Unless, as I said, there are well founded objections. So that is an additional good step on transparency.
Then we discussed the way we work on thematic discussions. We have had, I guess now for a couple of years, regular thematic discussions in the Eurogroup which focus mainly on structural reforms. The work method there is to benchmark where different countries are, what work has been done in countries or should be done, and then we give that a follow-up by regularly looking at the progress being made. There was strong support among the ministers on this method of benchmarking. We will focus it very much, of course, on financial and economic subjects. We will ask the Commission to maintain the high quality of work that they have done for us so far. The quality of the analysis and the quality of the data is of course important if you go into the process of benchmarking. So we will continue this work method if I can use that word, and make sure that we discuss all the euro area recommendations that the Commission annually puts to us. So that was on the work we do in the Eurogroup and will be doing.