This morning, the Portuguese Minister of State for Finance, João Leão, chaired the first meeting of the year of the Finance Ministers of the European Union, by video conference.
The meeting began with the presentation of the Ecofin work programme for the next six months, organised around three main priorities: relaunching the economy, strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union and dealing with emerging challenges, including the green and digital transition.
João Leão pointed out that this past year has been marked by the enormous social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but 2020 was “also the year that the European Union implemented an unprecedented timely response” and “showed an enormous feeling of unity and solidarity by approving Next Generation EU, a 750-billion-euro instrument to help rebuild the European economy”.
Rapid and coordinated response to the crisis
The first item on the agenda was the discussion on the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plans, with an exchange of opinions and experiences among the different Member States. Minister João Leão highlighted the need to achieve ambitious plans, with reforms that will lay the groundwork for a fair, green and digital recovery that will make the economies more resilient to future shocks.
The ministers agreed that the main priority should be to promote a speedy and robust recovery. “We will continue to coordinate the necessary response to overcoming this crisis. We will also review the national Recovery and Resilience Plans at each one of our upcoming meetings so that they can be approved quickly and easily. At the end of the day, our goal is to provide the support our economies need”, concluded Minister João Leão.
The Ecofin meeting also looked at the Commission's Action Plan for Non-Performing Loans (NPL), adopted last December. The ministers all agreed that it is important to conclude the implementation of the measures still pending from the 2017 Action Plan. As Minister João Leão said before the meeting, “we must take preventive and concerted action in order to preserve the resilience of our financial sector”, adding that “this time, the banks are part of the solution, and that is how it should remain”.
During this morning's meeting, the President of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, presented the conclusions of the most recent investment survey. These conclusions make a significant contribution to understanding how the current climate of uncertainty is affecting the investment plans of European Union companies, while also helping in the discussion on the role the Recovery and Resilience Facility will play in the promotion and maintenance of public and private investment.