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Andrej Bajuk, President of the ECOFIN Council, reveals work in the field of financial stability and the new three-year cycle of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs

Slovenian Minister of Finance Andrej Bajuk at the press conference after the meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN)

The Minister of Finance and the current President of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN Council), Dr Andrej Bajuk, today chaired the meeting of the ECOFIN Council for the first time. Among other things, he presented the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency and pointed out: “The two main priorities of the ECOFIN Council during Slovenia's Presidency will be the work in the field of financial stability and the new three-year cycle of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. The main objective of the presidency in the field of financial stability will be implementation of the adopted work programme, its acceleration and extension with new measures where this proves to be necessary.”

At the spring meeting in March, ECOFIN will discuss the report on the financial markets situation. The presidency will strive towards transparency of the situation in the financial sector, where this is the key element to maintain confidence in financial markets. During Slovenia's Presidency ECOFIN will also focus on improving evaluation and risk management standards, as well as on the work of ratings agencies. Financial stability issues will also be dealt with at the informal ECOFIN meeting in April this year, where the ministers will discuss the future role of the Lamfalussy supervisory authorities and sign a new Memorandum of Understanding between ministers for finance and supervisory and regulatory authorities in the field of crisis management in the EU, with a view to increase the readiness of the European Union to manage eventual cross-border crises.

In addition to the two main priorities, the Minister devoted some attention to the remaining priorities, which are based on the joint programme of the Trio Presidency.

The ministers discussed the overall strategic package within the mid-term review of the strategy for growth and jobs. Related thereto, they emphasised that in the last three-year period significant progress has been achieved; however, the challenges the European Union is facing, such as the ageing population, globalisation and financial stability, call for further enforcement of structural reforms to allow for strengthening the financial stability framework and coping with the increased prices of raw materials.

In recent years, structural reforms have yielded good results; in the last two years, for example, 6.5 million new jobs have been created, and by 2009, the number should increase by another 5 million.  Minister Bajuk also presented a document on the key issues which will constitute the contribution of the ECOFIN Council to the spring European Council meeting conclusions. 

The ministers welcomed and supported the introduction of SEPA, which will enter into force for credit transfers on 28 January 2008. The ministers made known the potential benefits of SEPA, which, six years after its introduction, should amount to EUR 120 billion according to some estimates. Of particular importance in this aspect is the rapid transition to SEPA payment instruments in all Member States; however, it is necessary that national public authorities start to use SEPA services as soon as possible, and thus by setting an example stimulate other participants to use them. The ministers also stressed that the introduction of the new SEPA payment instruments should not bring negative effects, neither from the aspect of costs nor relating to the level of services with regard to the existing payment instruments.

Minister Bajuk congratulated his colleagues from Cyprus and Malta on the successful and smooth introduction of the euro on 1 January 2008.

During the working lunch the ministers exchanged their views on the current economic situation, in particular as regards financial markets. On this occasion Minister Bajuk pointed out, “Currently we are facing a difficult situation on the stock exchange markets. The joint assessment of the economic situation is that the European economy has solid foundations. Economic reforms carried out in the past have significantly improved the resistance of the European economy in facing shocks; therefore, we should continue to be committed to these reforms also in the future.”


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Date: 25.01.2008