Good afternoon and welcome to this press conference. I will address the issues that we discussed today and then give the floor to Pierre and Klaus.
First, we discussed euro area recommendations. If you remember, we've changed the order of things in the sense that this year for the first time the euro area recommendations came to the front of the procedure and came out before the recommendations were addressed to the individual member states. So we discussed these recommendations of course and the context in which the euro area is recovering. A recovery which continues and yet there are priorities to address. The five priorities being structural reforms, supporting employment, sound fiscal policies, dealing with over-indebtedness and continuing the deepening of EMU. These priorities will be enshrined in Council recommendations to the euro area. They will go to the Economic and Financial Council tomorrow and then be formally adopted by the Council later on. And in the Eurogroup in the coming year we will subsequently address all of these issues more in depth, and have those on our agenda.
We also discussed more or less the same issues with the IMF, as part of the ongoing dialogue on the euro area economy, and I am pleased to report that our assessments (IMF and Commission) of the economic situation and the policy priorities are in close alignment. Recovery continues, it broadens. According to the IMF, we have the appropriate fiscal stance. The IMF was very supportive of the ECBs monetary policy, the accommodative monetary policy. But the IMF was also very clear that we have far too little shock absorption capacity in our economies both on the public and private side. And that the pace of reform is a concern for the IMF and remains a key priority. And of course the completion of the banking union, where also the IMF said "it needs to be about risk sharing and risk reduction" - these two go hand-in-hand.
The third point I want to make is about Greece. We discussed the next steps and took stock of where we are on the ESM programme. Significant progress, a lot has been achieved after the summer of course. Specifically before the end of the year on the banking sector, where as you remember roughly €5bn was put into the banks, which is a much lower number than we initially had expected. We are now entering a new phase of the programme, working towards the first review - the completion of the first review I should say - which is of course critical as it deals with a number of open fiscal issues, but also structural measures such as the pension reform. It is of decisive importance for the overall success of the programme and essential to get Greece's economic recovery back on track. So in our discussions we did not go into depth into for example the pension reform proposal, we just took stock of where we are in the process. The institutions have put a number of questions on more detailed information to the Greek government. We stress the importance to have that exchange of information very quickly, so that the institutions can travel to Athens to start the work there on the review in a very short period. And then we will take stock of the situation at our next meeting in February 2016.
Then on Cyprus. As you know we are approaching the end of the programme for Cyprus. Cyprus is doing particularly well, has implemented the programme and displayed lots of ownership. There are three open issues now, which the Cypriot government is working on. The programme ends at the of March 2016 and therefore next month we will come back to those three open issues to see where we are. Some are actually saying it's two open issues, so we are somewhere between there. We will come back to that next month to see whether they have been pushed forward, and we will have a discussion next month also on what the end of the programme will look like.
Then we had a thematic discussion on the reform of insolvency frameworks in the member states. This was part of the eurozone recommendations of last year. That's why it is on our agenda. It's actually also part of the capital markets union of Commissioner Hill and its also the third pillar of the Juncker plan on which Vice-President Katainen is working.
We exchanged information between ministers. The Italian, Irish and Portuguese colleagues informed us of the reforms they have done in the last years on the issue of insolvency. I think that's already a value in itself to exchange information on reform experiences, lessons learned. The next step we want to take is to establish a number of principles which can be used also to benchmark the insolvency frameworks that we have as member states. Principles to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these frameworks. So this could be about the speed of procedures, the clarity that investors and creditors have in advance and the costs of procedures. We want to work on a set of common principles and the Commission has said they will support us in doing that. We will come back to that in April or May 2016.
Then very briefly on the AIIB. I am happy to confirm that all euro area member states which are currently members of the AIIB will form together a euro area constituency at the bank. We've adopted a constituency agreement and that's an important signal towards strong cooperation from the euro area. I believe that on Saturday (16 January 2016) the formal ceremonies of the inauguration will take place in Beijing.
That's all for me for the moment.
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