and of the European Central Bank (ECB). On the basis of the reports by the ECB and the Commission, EU heads of state and government had already welcomed the proposal concerning Slovakia's accession to the euro area at their June summit in Brussels.
On 8 July, ministers also adopted a permanent conversion rate for the Slovak koruna (SKK) against the euro. The conversion rate was set at SKK 30.1260 to the euro. Euro notes and coins will be introduced in Slovakia at the same time as the adoption of the euro, on 1 January 2009.
In addition to the majority of EU member states, the euro is used, on the basis of a formal arrangement with the European Communities, in Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Andorra, Montenegro and Kosovo use it without such an arrangement. Moreover, a number of territories and islands around the world which are part of, or associated with, euro area countries use the euro. According to the latest ECB figures, the total value of euro banknotes and coins in circulation at the end of May 2008 was over EUR 690 billion.
Council press release (pdf)
Council webcast of Press conference
Re-establishing financial stability
In Summer 2007, global financial markets were thrown into turmoil by the sub-prime crisis in the USA.
In October 2007, the ECOFIN Council agreed on a road map to tackle the market instability, and it has now, on 8 July, adopted conclusions reviewing progress made, focusing on two issues: banking transparency and credit rating agencies.
The turmoil was in part the result of the lack of transparency in the financial market, in particular banks' exposure to risk. The Council has called on financial institutions to disclose full information on their on- and off-balance sheet risk exposures, depreciations and losses, and has also called for an improvement of valuation standards for financial instruments.
Another cause for the turbulence was the overrated valuation by credit rating agencies of banks' securitised debt instruments, based on mortgages to retail borrowers who eventually proved to be unable to reimburse their loans. As a general problem, agencies often do not react quickly enough, when a company's credit quality deteriorates and should be downgraded.
Furthermore, the agencies expose themselves to a conflict of interest, as they charge the very same companies they are rating. Also for the credit rating agencies, transparency concerning the value of ratings should be improved. The Council calls for strengthened oversight, and supports the Commission's intention of introducing an EU registration system. In the USA, rating agencies are already required to register.
The Commission is expected to present a proposal on the subject in October.
Europol: Strategic cooperation with Serbia and Montenegro
On 8 July, the Council approved the signing of two agreements on strategic cooperation between the European Police Office (Europol) in The Hague on the one hand, and Serbia and Montenegro on the other. These agreements are aimed at enhancing the exchange of information and expertise on organised crime and terrorism between Europol and both countries.
On 27 March 2000, the Council authorised the Director of Europol to enter into negotiations on cooperation agreements with third States and international organisations (for example Interpol). Two types of agreements can be concluded: strategic agreements are limited to the exchange of non-personal data, such as information on trends in organised crime, threat assessments or law enforcement methods; operational agreements also include the possibility of exchanging personal data. A strategic agreement can however lead to the later negotiation of an operational agreement. The strategic agreement with Croatia, for instance, was changed into an operational agreement in 2006.
So far, Europol has concluded strategic agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Russia and Turkey, and operational agreements with Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the USA.
Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 15 July 2008
Economic and Financial Affairs Council, 17 July 2008