Greece on track to exit bailout programme after receiving EU approval

Ministers also press ahead with internal reforms of European Monetary Union

Minister for Finance  Paschal Donohoe, who was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of the eurogroup. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, who was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of the eurogroup. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Eurogroup ministers approved the third review of Greece’s bailout programme on Monday, putting the country on course to exit its bailout in June.

Economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned that the fourth programme remained difficult, involving 88 more reforms, but he expressed confidence that Greece would get it over the line.

The meeting in Brussels also saw the ministers working to push forward internal reforms of the European Monetary Union, but it became clear that leaders at next week’s summit are unlikely to endorse the more ambitious plans from the French and the European Commission.

Ireland is among a group of like-minded Baltic states and the Netherlands, nicknamed the Hanseatic League, which have urged restraint, notably on the “communitisation” or transfer to commission control of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which provides financial assistance, by way of loans, to euro zone countries or as new capital to banks in difficulty.

Public trust

A joint paper from the league last week urged moving slowly. “It is of the essence that we do our utmost to strengthen economic and financial stability and regain public trust. Further deepening of the EMU should stress real value-added, not far-reaching transfers of competence to the European level.

“For that reason the discussion on the deepening of the EMU should find a consensus on ‘need to haves’, instead of focussing on ‘nice to haves’.”

The ministers, however, are close to agreement on strengthening the ESM, including the design of future bailouts and back-stopping the euro zone Single Resolution Fund for banks.

Formal proposals will go to the June summit along these lines, although Mr Moscovici insisted that he was still holding out for support for other elements of what he sees as a package – a fiscal capacity to combat divergence in the euro zone, and changes to the zone’s governance.

Accountants

EU finance ministers will meet at the Ecofin meeting on Tuesday. Among items on the agenda are new regulations from the commission requiring the disclosure in advance of new “tax planning” schemes by accountants, and their sharing between member states. Ireland strongly supports the measure.

However, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue is expected to join a protest by six other states which were attacked last week by the commission for “aggressive” tax policies designed to undercut others to attract multinational companies.

Mr Moscovici pointed the finger at Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands, arguing that they have engaged in tax policies that undermine the integrity of the European single market. However, he stopped short of suggesting they were tax havens or assisting tax avoidance.