At the meeting of ECOFIN ministers on 4 November 2020, agenda items included the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, the action plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe, the European Fiscal Board’s annual report, the European Semester and the G20 and IMF meetings in October.
Combating money laundering and terrorist financing
The ECOFIN ministers discussed the issue of combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Ministers agreed on conclusions setting out the Council’s position on the European Commission’s forthcoming legislative proposals, which are expected in the first quarter of 2021. Focus areas include the extensive harmonisation of provisions based on the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the creation of a European anti-money laundering supervisor with direct supervisory powers, and the establishment of a coordination and support mechanism for Financial Intelligence Units.
Action plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe
The ECOFIN Council examined progress on the implementation of the action plan to tackle non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe and discussed the European Commission’s planned NPL strategy. The NPL action plan from 2017 has largely been implemented except for a few elements. Nevertheless, certain EU member states need to make further progress in reducing NPL levels. The European Commission announced that it will present proposals for further measures.
European Fiscal Board’s annual report
The chair of the European Fiscal Board, Niels Thygesen, presented the board’s annual report. The report examines public finances, the fiscal stance and fiscal policy supervision in the EU in 2019. It also considers how the EU’s fiscal framework can be further developed.
2020 European Semester
The ECOFIN Council agreed on conclusions regarding the European Court of Auditors’ special report on the European Semester. The European Semester is an important instrument for coordinating economic, budgetary and employment policies at the EU level. In its report, the European Court of Auditors states, among other things, that member states need to better implement the European Semester recommendations. It also asserts that clearer explanations are required for why certain reforms should be prioritised over others. The ECOFIN Council also adopted conclusions on the European Commission’s Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS). The ASGS emphasises that member states need to base their national plans for economic recovery on the principles of the green transition, digitalisation, fairness and macroeconomic stability.
Review of the G20 and IMF meetings in October
Additionally, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, as chair of the ECOFIN Council, and the European Commission briefed ministers on the meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and on the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in October 2020. Discussions focused on the latest developments in deliberations on international tax policy, among other things. In their virtual meeting on 14 October 2020, the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors endorsed an updated action plan which contains a range of important measures for the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic and for shaping the global economic recovery. This includes, in particular, a six-month extension of the G20 and Paris Club debt moratorium for the world’s 77 poorest countries until the end of June 2021.