On Wednesday and Thursday this week, Luxembourg's Minister of Finance Pierre Gramegna participated in Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings in Brussels - the first to be attended by the new EU Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni.
At the Eurogroup meeting, bringing together ministers from the nineteen member countries, discussions first focused on the draft budgetary plans for the year 2020. On the basis of the opinions of the European Commission, it was noted that all eurozone members are now below the 3% threshold for their public deficit, for the first time since 2002.
In this context, Luxembourg's draft budget for 2020 is considered to be fully in accordance with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. The Eurogroup also welcomed the fact that eurozone countries, including Luxembourg, are using their fiscal space to invest more.
Pierre Gramegna commented: "I welcome the fact that the European Commission recognises the appropriateness of the budget choices of the Luxembourg Government. By investing 4.4% of its GDP, while ensuring a balanced budget, Luxembourg's policy fits perfectly with the Commission's recommendations to address the economic, social and environmental challenges facing Europe".
In inclusive format, the Eurogroup brought together the finance ministers of the 27 EU Member States to take stock of the important progress made in the context of the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The work in recent months has focused on the establishment of a euro area budget (BICC), the reform of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the strengthening of the Banking Union.
On the reform of the ESM, the finance ministers have reached an agreement in principle, thus paving the way for the finalisation and signing of the treaty implementing the aforementioned reform in the near future. In this context, Pierre Gramegna highlighted that "the reform of the ESM, headquartered in Luxembourg, is beneficial for the financial stability of all countries in the euro area".
With regard to the Banking Union, the 27 ministers agreed that the negotiations on its completion should continue at a sustained pace. For his part, Minister Gramegna reaffirmed Luxembourg's support for a strong Banking Union, which also includes a European Deposit Guarantee Scheme, while underlining the importance of protecting the savings of citizens and the financial stability of the Member States.
At the meeting of the Ecofin Council on 5 December 2019, the ministers discussed public Country-by-Country reporting (CbCR), which was rejected by the Competitiveness Council on 28 November 2019. Recalling Luxembourg's firm commitment to fiscal transparency and the fight against tax evasion, as well as the many successes of the Ecofin Council in this area, Pierre Gramegna called for a continuation of the negotiations of the public CbCR file within the Ecofin Council, in order to find a solution with a legal basis acceptable to all Member States. Minister Gramegna commented: "Under the pressure of peer pressure, the Ecofin Council will be able to make a decisive and constructive step forward on this issue".
The ministers also adopted Council conclusions stressing the need to further deepen the Capital Markets Union (CMU) in the interest of those saving money and the financing of the economy. Ministers also agreed on the need to improve the regulatory framework in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing by setting priorities for the coming months.
Finally, the ministers approved an ambitious work programme on climate action and in particular the taxation of energy. Pierre Gramegna commented: "In the light of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid, I am pleased that finance ministers are taking action against climate change as a priority in the modernisation of taxation".