Remarks by J. Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 20 March 2017
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Good afternoon and welcome to this Eurogroup press conference.
Let me start with our discussion on Greece. We were debriefed by the institutions and the Greek authorities on the state of play of the ongoing second review. I think a lot of work has been done and progress made. But still some issues remain - some key issues - and the outcome of today's meeting is that on the basis of the preparatory meeting which we had - myself, the institutions and the Greek authorities - we agreed that talks will continue to intensify in the coming days here in Brussels, focusing on the key outstanding topics which I hope are limited, to try to clear those big issues out of the way and come to a full policy package agreement. And then we can have the political discussion in the Eurogroup.
Then your next question will be - as it always is - when will that be? The next Eurogroup is on the 7th of April but there is no promise that all the work will be done by then, but there is a strong agreement and a strong will between all parties involved to finish the remaining issues as quickly as possible. So therefore intensified, concentrated talks in Brussels in the coming days to clear those up.
Then today we followed up on the implementation of the budgetary plans, which as you remember we discussed in December and some of them we discussed in January. We put out statements then outlining which countries are at risk or which countries are complying or broadly complying. And we focused on the implementation to see where we are so far and no additional measures were taken. Several ministers have announced that additional measures are being prepared.
We will follow up on this in May, on the basis of the spring forecasts, so we will take stock again on the implementation of the budgetary plans to make sure that all of us remain under the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact.
Thirdly, we had a thematic discussion under the bigger umbrella of growth and jobs. We focused on pension systems and the sustainability of pension systems. Already in June, we adopted a set of common principles to strengthen the sustainability of pension systems in our countries in the euro area. As you realise, the sustainability of pension systems is a big factor in the sustainability of public finances.
Today, we discussed and agreed on a framework for benchmarking the sustainability of pension systems: benchmarking against the best performers of the euro area, to do that every three years, starting next year. We will rely mainly on two key fiscal sustainability indicators but will also draw on a few flanking indicators in order to provide a comprehensive and balanced view, and take account of country specificities. The benchmarking exercise will take place within the context of the existing process and surveillance mechanisms, in particular the European Commission's Ageing Report.
I am very happy about this agreement. This is the second benchmarking exercise the Eurogroup has agreed to. The first one was the benchmark on the tax wedge on labour which we started in September 2015. So this is the second one on the sustainability of pension systems and I think that will help to deepen our work on fiscal sustainability in macroeconomic imbalances.
Finally, we took note of the third annual ex-ante reporting on issuance plans, in a not very exciting debate but it is good to have it. When things get tough then all of a sudden it becomes very interesting. At the moment things are not so tough but still it is good to share these issuance plans between member states and make sure that there are no issues arising, which was the case.