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European Commission Economic and Financial Affairs
E-NEWS - Issue 153
In this issue - 16 March 2017

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Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk © European Union 2017
EU leaders find that economic reforms are bearing fruit; call for rapid progress on multiple fronts

Meeting on 9-10 March, EU leaders assessed the economic situation in the EU and the euro area, concluding that reforms implemented by the Member States since 2008 are bearing fruit. The economic recovery is continuing with positive growth across Member States, and the outlook is encouraging, while unemployment is at its lowest level since 2009, public finances are improving and investment is growing. To sustain the economic recovery, the leaders called for structural reforms, strengthening of public finances and promotion of investment, including through the swift extension of the European Fund for Strategic Investments. They also called for rapid progress on the implementation of various single market strategies by 2018 and reiterated the need to complete the banking union in order to reduce and share risks in the financial sector. Lastly, as part of the European Semester – the EU’s annual economic policy coordination process – the leaders endorsed policy priorities for 2017, as set out in this year’s Annual Growth Survey, and the draft Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area for 2017. On 10 March, 27 EU leaders met informally to prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and discuss the main elements of the scheduled Rome Declaration. Leaders also conducted a debate based on the Commission White Paper on the future of the EU. Members of the European Parliament subsequently took stock of the outcome of the meeting of EU leaders during a plenary session from 13-16 March. 

See also : European Council, 09-10/03/2017
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Image taken from Investment Plan webpage © European Union, 2014
Investment Plan: deals worth EUR 556 million signed in Sweden, France, Finland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Italy

The European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a EUR 75 million loan on 10 March with real estate company Castellum, for the construction of two “Nearly zero-energy buildings” in Sweden. The loan was made possible by support from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the European Commission's Investment Plan for Europe. The EIB also agreed on 8 March to lend up to EUR 30 million to Valio, the Finnish dairy company, for its research, development and innovation investments related to the nutrition, functionality and health impacts of dairy products. On 7 March, the EIB concluded a deal to provide EUR 110 million to finance innovative transport in the Hauts-de-France region, as well as a deal with Česká spořitelna a.s. (CSAS) to provide EUR 100 million in financing for SMEs in the Czech Republic. A EUR 200 million deal was concluded by the EIB in France on 7 March to finance the deployment of a fibre optic network based on FTTH (Fiber To The Home) technology throughout the country by 2018. Meanwhile, on 2 March the European Investment Fund (EIF) and DSK Bank signed an agreement to provide EUR 15 million in financing to innovative Bulgarian SMEs and small mid-caps under the InnovFin initiative, which is backed by the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. In Italy, the EIF and Confidi Systema! signed an agreement to provide EUR 26 million in financing to innovative Italian SMEs and small mid-caps over the next two years. Just two years after it was launched by the Juncker Commission, EFSI is now expected to trigger more than EUR 177 billion in total investments, or well over half of the EUR 315 billion target of total investments. The Commission's proposal to extend the EFSI has made good progress and is among the Commission's top legislative priorities to ensure fast adoption.

See also : Investment Plan
Image taken from EIPP webpage © European Union, 2017
European Investment Project Portal achieves success with listing of over 140 projects across multiple sectors

The European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) is an online platform providing greater visibility and transparency about EU investment projects and opportunities. As a full component of the Investment Plan, it acts as a bridge between EU project promoters and investors, thereby boosting investment in the real economy. As the EIPP approaches its second anniversary, it already lists over 140 projects spread across 25 sectors with high economic potential.. Projects can be filtered according to investors' preferences, such as by country, sector, or project cost. The Portal provides a transparent, forward-looking pipeline of EU investment projects, bringing together project promoters and investors from across the EU and giving promoters the chance to showcase their projects to investors in the EU and abroad, while investors can search for project opportunities. EIPP features, such as the registration process and search tools, are continuously being developed and improved, to optimise its user-friendliness. 

See also : European Investment Project Portal (EIPP)
The Ukrainian flag (left), and the European flag © European Union, 2017
Commission approves disbursement of €600 million assistance to Ukraine

On 16 March the European Commission decided on behalf of the EU to release the second tranche of Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) to Ukraine, a loan of EUR 600 million. With this disbursement, the total MFA the EU has extended to Ukraine since 2014 will reach EUR 2.81 billion. This is the largest amount the EU has disbursed to any other non-EU country as well as the EU's largest single MFA operation. As part of the EU's wider engagement with neighbouring countries, MFA is intended as an exceptional EU crisis response instrument and are made available to EU neighbouring countries experiencing severe balance-of-payments problems. In addition to MFA, the EU supports Ukraine through several other instruments, including humanitarian aid and budget support. Ukraine has largely fulfilled the policy commitments agreed with the EU for the release of the second MFA payment. This included taking important measures to step up the fight against corruption, foster greater transparency in public finance management, modernise the public administration, advance the ongoing reforms of the energy and financial sectors, and to improve the business environment and to strengthen social safety nets.

See also : Ukraine
Eurocoin © European Union
Progress is made across EU on tackling euro coin counterfeiting in 2016

The number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation in 2016 increased by 8.69% compared to the year before. In 2016 a total of 150,258 fake euro coins were detected in circulation. In addition to this, 77,084 counterfeit euro coins were seized before entering circulation by law enforcement authorities. The 2-euro denomination remains by far the most affected by this criminal activity, representing more than 2 out of 3 counterfeit euro coins detected. Despite the fact that the proportion of counterfeit 50 euro cent coins decreased, the coin remained in second position, from the quantity point of view  (17.1% of the total), with the of 1-euro coins following (13.6% of the total). A combination of preventive measures including legislation, technical analysis, law enforcement coordination and judicial cooperation have allowed Member States to make progress in removing counterfeit euro coins from circulation. A comprehensive legal framework exists at the European level for the protection of the euro. It consists of administrative, training and criminal law and authentication measures.

See also : EU on tackling euro coin counterfeiting in 2016
Euro Notes Collection Pile Close © Thinkstock 2017
Commission opens public consultation on potential restrictions on large payments in cash

As announced in its Inception Impact Assessment of 23 January 2017, the Commission is currently exploring the relevance of potential upper limits to cash payments in the context of the fight against terrorism financing described in its 2016 Action Plan. Cash is still the most common and accessible means of payments. That's why it is essential to collect the views of civil society on such a sensitive initiative. The Commission has therefore opened an open public consultation inviting all stakeholders to express their views by answering a dedicated questionnaire, while also providing the opportunity to upload a detailed position paper. This consultation will remain open until 31 May 2017.

See also : EU initiative on restrictions on payments in cash
ECFIN eNews reader survey © European Union, 2017
ECFIN E-news reader survey: What do you think of it?

The EU economic and financial landscape – and economic governance – continues to evolve in 2017. ECFIN E-news aims to summarise for you the latest key developments and invites you to read further about the topics you find most interesting. We would like to kindly ask you to let us know your views and suggestions. What do you like about the newsletter? What could be improved? Thank you for sharing your thoughts by spending just a few minutes to answer the online questionnaire. We appreciate your feedback.

See also : ECFIN E-news reader survey: What do you think of it?
Image taken from Real Economy. © Euronews, 2017
Real Economy episode examines Europe’s prospects through the lens of economic forecasts

Amidst uncertainty such as mixed messages from the new US administration, a spate of elections across Europe, and worries about Brexit and China, the latest episode of Real Economy analyses the road ahead for Europe’s economy. For the first time in almost a decade, across the EU, every country – including those hardest hit by the recession – is expected to grow this year and the next. In addition, a recent rise in the price of oil has helped push inflation closer to the level that the European Central Bank targets to ensure price stability. Euro area inflation is now forecast to increase to 1.7% this year, while in the EU it is forecast to rise to 1.8%. The recovery is still slow and incomplete, however. Of the euro area’s four major economies, for example, only Germany’s outlook has been upgraded. Nonetheless, increased production by companies such as Maviflex, a manufacturer of industrial doors near Lyon, foreshadows a pick-up across the private sector and especially in manufacturing. Companies like Maviflex face a dilemma, however: “The need to invest” versus “an uncertain political environment”. According to Lucrezia Reichlin, an economist and professor at the London Business School, “once the political uncertainty will be cleared…more optimism will prevail.”

See also : Navigating Europe's choppy economic waters: forecasts and uncertainty
blue abstract numbers © thinkstockphotos
GDP up by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU

Seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU during the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with the previous quarter, according to an estimate published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. In the third quarter of 2016, GDP grew by 0.4% in both zones. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 1.7% in the euro area and by 1.9% in the EU in the fourth quarter of 2016, after +1.8% and +1.9% respectively in the previous quarter. Over the whole year 2016, GDP rose by 1.7% in the euro area and by 1.9% in the EU, compared with 2.0% and 2.2% respectively in 2015. Among Member States for which data are available for the fourth quarter of 2016, Estonia (+1.9%), Poland (+1.7%) and Lithuania (+1.4%) recorded the highest growth compared with the previous quarter, while Greece recorded negative growth (-1.2%) and GDP in Finland remained stable.

See also : GDP up by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU28
Graph of the Week

The EU Invest Portal

The EU Invest Portal (EIPP)

Selected Speeches
15 March 2017
President Jean-Claude Juncker. At the European Parliament on the European Council of 9 March and of the Informal Meeting of 27 Heads of State or Government. Speech 17/ 626 of 15 March.

Public consultation on potential restrictions on large payments in cash. Deadline 31 May

Call for applications for the selection of members of the "Support to Circular Economy Financing Expert Group". Deadline 9 May.
15-18 March
G20 Deputies and Ministerial meeting
20-21 March
25 March
European Council on the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome
3-6 April
European Parliament Plenary
7-8 April
Informal Eurogroup/ECOFIN
21-23 April
Washington, D.C
World Bank Group / IMF 2017 spring meetings
26-27 April
European Parliament Plenary
27 April
Frankfurt, Germany
ECB Governing Council meeting
11–13 May
Bari, Italy
G7 Finance Ministerial meeting
date tbc
Spring economic forecasts
15–18 May
European Parliament Plenary
22-23 May
1 June
Brussels Economic Forum
12–15 June
European Parliament Plenary
15–16 June
22–23 June
European Council
3–6 July
European Parliament Plenary
7–8 July
Hamburg, Germany
G20 Summit
10–11 July
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