Minister: the EU budget must contribute to growth

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council, commonly known as the Ecofin Council, approved its guidelines for the 2018 EU budget today.

“The EU budget should help boost smart and inclusive growth. To achieve this, the budget should concentrate on new investments conducive to jobs and growth,” said the Minister of Finance of Estonia, Sven Sester. “However, steps should be taken to ensure that the red tape associated with the use of EU funds does not increase. Therefore, we urge all institutions, bodies and agencies to reduce or freeze their administrative expenditure as much as possible and to request financing only for justified needs.”

The guidelines by the finance ministers of the European Commission marked the start of the procedure for drawing up the general budget of the Union. During its term of the EU presidency, Estonia must lead the negotiations with the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the Member States, and the European Commission preceding the adoption of the EU budget.

The finance ministers also gave the discharge to the Commission for the implementation of the EU’s budget for 2015. The discharge to the Commission was prepared in the light of an annual report from the Court of Auditors.

The finance ministers agreed on the general approach of the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive draft (ATAD2). The new legislation will counter tax evasion and avoidance stemming from disparities between the taxation systems of different countries.

“Tax evasion and tax avoidance should not give anyone an undue competitive advantage,” said Sven Sester. “Estonia supports the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance as well as the common approach proposed by Malta, holders of the current EU presidency.”

ATAD2 will be a supplement to the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive adopted last summer, addressing hybrid mismatches with regard to non-EU countries. Hybrid mismatches occur where the same transaction or entity is treated differently in two different jurisdictions, providing an opportunity to avoid taxation in cross-border cases.

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Sven Sester meet with Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission, following the meeting of the Council, to discuss matters related to the forthcoming Estonian EU presidency.

At the meeting of the finance ministers of euro area countries (the Eurogroup) on Monday in Brussels, the Minister also presented Estonia’s proposals for cutting red tape, including the entrepreneurial account initiative. The ministers discussed the ease of doing business in the euro area and the opportunities to improve the business climate. The discussions will continue in April.

ECB President Mario Draghi, the IMF’s European chief Poul Thomsen and ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling briefed the Eurogroup on the situation in Greece: the country has returned to economic growth and its unemployment rate is in decline for the third consecutive year. Greece has achieved the target of medium-term primary surplus set out in the last year’s economic adjustment programme.

The European Commission also presented its winter 2017 economic forecast to the Eurogroup.

Source: Estonian Ministtry21 of Finance

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