I would like to start by simply referring to the anniversary which we have just commemorated today during the Eurogroup meeting. Twenty years ago, our central banks began shipping some 15 billion euros in banknotes and some 52 billion euro coins to all corners of the euro area in anticipation of the changeover to the liquid euro on January 1, 2002. The euro family has grown over the past 20 years, from 11 members in 2002 to 19 today, with hopefully more to come.
We have faced many challenges in these two decades and over the next 20 years I know that we will surely face new challenges, but also face and take advantage of new opportunities. It is part of our collective responsibility, within the Eurogroup, to make sure that we are ready for what lies ahead. One of the priorities is the completion of the banking union and to that end I have invited my fellow ministers to a dinner this evening to take stock of where we are and to identify how we can move forward. before.
Back to today’s agenda.
We started with Greece, taking stock of the progress made on the basis of the 12th enhanced surveillance report. We welcomed the progress made in policy reform despite the difficult circumstances of the pandemic and the terrible fires of August 2021. We gave our political agreement to the release of the sixth tranche of the conditional debt measures, a amount of 767 million euros. We have issued a statement to that end.
We then examined the development of the economic situation in Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and in my own country, Ireland, on the basis of the post-program surveillance reports presented by our institutions. These reports were generally positive and confirm that strong economic recoveries were underway in 2021, supported by the deployment of vaccines, policies at European level and measures taken in each country to decisively address the pandemic situation and its consequences. economic consequences.
Then we looked to the year ahead, we discussed our common priorities, which are reflected in the work program that we have just approved. I want to mention two important themes: on the one hand supporting the recovery and long-term growth and on the other hand strengthening the banking union, so a word on each one.
First, within the Eurogroup, we will continue to coordinate our action at national and European level to support the recovery and generate long-term growth. In this context, we have discussed the appropriate fiscal policy that we will implement for 2023. I am working with the Commission and we have identified how and when we will seek to reach consensus on this. We also discussed the role of the Eurogroup in the debate on the future of economic governance.
The second priority concerns the strengthening of the banking union. Because we believe that a stronger banking union in Europe will contribute to our recovery, to more jobs and more investment in Europe.
We will also continue to regularly exchange our views on the possible issuance of a digital euro, focusing on its political dimensions and also on the discussion on the future of the enlargement of the euro area.
We then moved on to our main block of policy discussions focused on the year ahead. Kristalina Georgieva gave us an overview of the IMF’s assessment of the economic situation and political priorities, which I know are being communicated publicly as I speak.
What’s important to note is that the IMF welcomes our coordinated policy response, which has helped the euro area economy recover strongly in 2021 and lay the groundwork for a good outlook for 2022.
The Stimulus Fund is now operational and it is an important tool to help us protect ourselves from emerging health risks and strengthen our efforts for a sustainable recovery.
The emergence of new variants of COVID reminds us that political support is still needed and that we must continue to monitor developments very closely. However, the economic recovery is now strong enough to justify a shift from broad supportive measures to more targeted responses.
These are also the political priorities identified by the Commission in its proposal for a Council recommendation on economic policies for the euro area, which Commissioner Gentiloni presented today.
We also discussed fiscal policy in more detail, with our annual discussion of draft budget plans for the coming year. The statement we just released confirms the importance of maintaining moderate budget support in 2022, while remaining agile and ensuring actions are well targeted as we continue to respond to a changing health environment.
We welcome the Commission’s assessment that Member States’ plans are aimed at supporting the recovery and that nationally funded investments should be preserved or broadly preserved in 2022 in all euro area Member States.
At the same time, we note the importance of controlling the growth of current spending, especially for the most indebted Member States. We will come back to the issue of fiscal policy guidelines for 2023 early next year, on the basis of a Commission proposal.
This is a quick version of our discussion today, more details are in the statements, but I will stop there and pass the floor to my colleagues.
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