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Minister Bajuk presents Slovenia’s ECOFIN Council Presidency priorities to the EP ECON Committee

“The adoption of the second three-year cycle of the revised Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs and work in the field of financial services are the key priorities of Slovenia's Presidency of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council,” emphasised the Slovenian Minister of Finance and current ECOFIN President, Dr Andrej Bajuk, presenting the ECOFIN Council's priority tasks to the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) today.

The Minister of Finance opened his presentation by declaring, “Our task is to continue the successful work done by Germany and Portugal during their mandate within the framework of the joint eighteen-month Presidency Programme and to try to expedite the work where possible and to expand it where necessary. Our work could be divided into three extensive and complex areas, i.e. economic policy harmonisation, financial services and taxation.”

In the field of economic policy, during Slovenia's Presidency, ECOFIN will define the new three-year cycle of Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPG). In this connection, the Minister of Finance underlined, “The Strategy for Growth and Jobs has already yielded good results therefore there is no need to change the Integrated Guidelines. The stability of the process of structural reforms is itself an important element in their success.” As regards the Stability and Growth Pact, ECOFIN will continue to closely monitor the development of the budgetary situation. Concerning the introduction of the euro, Dr Bajuk affirmed that the Slovenian Presidency would carefully monitor the entry of Malta and Cyprus into the eurozone, going on to say that, on the basis of the documents submitted by the European Commission and the European Central Bank, ECOFIN would in June prepare an assessment of the Slovak Republic's fulfilment of the Maastricht convergence criteria required for it to join the eurozone on 1 January 2009. In the field of improving the quality of public finance, the Slovenian Presidency would focus on the effectiveness of public spending on social transfers and education.

Dr Bajuk highlighted financial services as the focal point of Slovenia's EU Presidency priorities in this area. In the field of financial services, in respect of non-legislative issues, the Presidency will encourage work on the implementation of the long-term financial stability plan, the Lamfalussy process review and the turmoil on the financial markets. In the field of retail financial services, Dr Bajuk highlighted the introduction of the Single Euro Payment Area on 28 January 2008, the examination of the White Paper on mortgage credit and the Commission communication on financial education. Among the legislative acts he underlined the Solvency II project and the planned Commission proposals amending the UCITS III Directive in the area of investment funds, and amending the Directive on Financial Collateral Arrangements and the Directive on settlement finality in payment and securities settlement systems.

In the field of taxation the Slovenian Presidency will endeavour in particular to combat tax fraud; as regards indirect taxation it will focus on the modernisation and simplification of the common rules on value added tax (VAT) and excise duties.

“Slovenia is the first of the new Member States to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is a great honour and, at the same time, a great challenge for us. We are not afraid of this challenge but we do need support. Europe will only succeed if we work together.” stressed the Minister of Finance Dr Bajuk.


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Date: 29.01.2008