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  05 December 2019  
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Economic and Financial Affairs

ECFIN E-news 208

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New Commission of Ursula von der Leyen begins
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EC © European Union, 2019

On Sunday, 1 December, the von der Leyen Commission took office. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, attended a ceremony at the House of European History in Brussels on Sunday, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Treaty of Lisbon.

On this occasion, the President received the Treaties from David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, in a symbolic hand-over. In the new Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis becomes Executive Vice-President for the portfolio An Economy that Works for People, while Paolo Gentiloni assumes the position of Commissioner for the Economy. They will be responsible for advancing key initiatives such as Deepening the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into the European Semester, boosting invesments via the InvestEU Programme and the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, and strengthening the international role of the euro.

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See also The von der Leyen Commission takes office
Viewpoint
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EC © European Union, 2019
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

“This [the House of European history] shows the road that has led us here. It shows the treasure that we have inherited. A continent in peace. The liberation from tyranny. A single market with unprecedented economic opportunities. Greater rights and liberties than in any other place in the world.”

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Europeans show record support for the euro
Logo of Euro at 20 © European Union, 2019

More than three in four citizens think that the single currency is good for the European Union, according to the latest Eurobarometer results.

This is the highest support since surveys began in 2002. According to the results of the latest Eurobarometer survey on the euro area published on 28 November, 76% of respondents think the single currency is good for the EU. This is the highest support since the introduction of euro coins and banknotes in 2002 and a 2-percentage point increase since last year's already record levels. Similarly, a majority of 65% of citizens across the euro area think that the euro is beneficial for their own country: this is also the highest number ever measured. The common currency is supported by a majority of citizens in all 19 euro area Member States. Still a young currency, the euro has just turned 20 this year. Nevertheless, Europeans clearly see the very practical benefits it has brought to their everyday lives. Four fifths of respondents agree that the euro has made it easier to do business across borders, compare prices and shop in other countries, including online. An absolute majority in the euro area also think that the euro has made traveling easier and less costly.

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Eurogroup welcomes submission of Draft Budgetary Plans and that no Member State is under the corrective arm of the SGP
Roundtable © European Union, 2019

Meeting on 4 December, euro area finance ministers welcomed that all 19 Member States have submitted Draft Budgetary Plans (DBPs) for 2020, and that no DBP was found in particularly serious non-compliance with the Stability & Growth Pact (SGP).

They also welcomed the fact that for the first time since 2002 no euro-area Member State is currently under the corrective arm of the SGP. The Eurogroup invited Belgium, Austria, Portugal and Spain to submit the updates of their DBPs as soon as possible, to ensure compliance with the SGP. Finance ministers also agreed that if downside risks to the economy materialise, fiscal responses should be differentiated, taking into account country-specific circumstances and avoiding pro-cyclicality to the extent possible. Regarding the implementation of reform commitments by Greece based on the fourth enhanced surveillance report, ministers, welcomed the confirmation by the institutions that Greece is projected to comfortably meet the primary surplus target of 3.5% of GDP for 2019. They also praised the budget for 2020, which is projected to ensure the achievement of the primary surplus target and which includes a package of growth-friendly measures aimed at reducing the tax burden on capital and labour. The Eurogroup also reappointed Hans Vijlbrief as President of the Eurogroup working group (EWG), for another two-year term.

Ireland Post-Programme Mission focuses on fiscal and financial sector developments
The national flag of Ireland next to the European flag © European Union, 2019

European Commission staff, in liaison with staff from the European Central Bank, visited Dublin from 19-21 November for the twelfth post-programme mission to Ireland.

This was coordinated with an International Monetary Fund staff visit. Staff from the European Stability Mechanism participated in the meetings in the context of its Early Warning System. The mission mainly focused on fiscal and financial sector developments and the long term outlook, including persisting vulnerabilities and the assessment of risks stemming from external headwinds. It discussed, among other topics, Irish authorities’ plans to increase the resilience of public finances and improve the performance of the banking sector, with a focus on the evolution of non-performing loans and business model sustainability. Staff also discussed the implications of the growing non-bank financial sector. The surveillance report reflecting the detailed findings of this mission is due to be published in February 2020.

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See also Staff statement following the twelfth post-programme surveillance mission to Ireland
Investment Plan: EU invests in telecoms, renews its commitment to SMEs
Boosting Jobs, Growth and Investment © European Union, 2015

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and GO p.l.c. (GO) signed a €28 million loan on 27 November to finance GO's investments in telecommunication infrastructure.

GO is listed on the Malta Stock Exchange and is the country's leading telecommunication services company. The EIB loan is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, the Juncker Plan. The project is the first entirely located in Malta to benefit from the EFSI guarantee. The EIB announced on 27 November that it has invested up to €61 million in Alhambra SME Funding 2019-1 DAC (Alhambra 2019-1),  the first-ever securitisation of loans, originated by Be-Spoke Capital, a new direct lending platform. This newly established platform will support Spanish SMEs and mid-caps with long-term financing opportunities that complement the offer of traditional lenders. Meanwhile, the European Investment Fund (EIF) is renewing its support to European SME, under the “Private Credit Tailored for SMEs” programme, alongside other top tier institutional investors including CNP Assurances, Bpifrance and Zencap. A new €100 million commitment was signed by the EIF, CNP Assurances, Bpifrance and Zencap among others on 26 November to finance European SMEs through lending marketplace October.

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See also Investment Plan for Europe: the Juncker Plan
Publications
Quarterly Report on the Euro Area. Volume 18, No 2 (2019)
Quarterly Report on the Euro Area. Volume 18, No 2 (2019) European Union, 2019 © European Union, 2019

QREA Volume 18 N. 2 (2019) is a special issue devoted to the 20th year of the euro, providing an overview of developments and achievements over the past 20 years both in terms of economic performance and institutional developments.

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Post-Programme Surveillance Report. Spain, Autumn 2019

This report by the European Commission presents the findings of the twelfth post-programme surveillance mission to Spain and identifies remaining challenges for the Spanish economy.

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Post-Programme Surveillance Report. Cyprus, Autumn 2019

This report by the European Commission presents the findings of the seventh post-programme surveillance mission to Cyprus and identifies remaining challenges for the Cypriot economy.

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Agenda
4-5 December
Brussels
Eurogroup/ECOFIN
6-7 December
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
G20 Finance Deputies’ Meeting
12-13 December
Brussels
European Council
16-19 December
Strasbourg
European Parliament Plenary
 
13-16 January
Strasbourg
European Parliament Plenary
10-13 February
Strasbourg
European Parliament Plenary
9-12 March
Strasbourg
European Parliament Plenary
26-27 March
Brussels
European Council

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