EU Flash: results January Ecofin meeting, negotiating directives for Brexit and final report of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance


Op 23 januari kwamen de Europese ministers van Financiën bijeen in de Raad Economische en Financiële Zaken (Ecofin) om de verdieping van de Europese Monetaire Unie te bespreken. De Raad heeft zich gebogen over de EU-lijst van niet-coöperatieve jurisdicties met betrekking tot fiscaal bestuur, alsook over de jaarlijkse groeianalyse en het waarschuwingsmechanismeverslag van de Commissie. Op 29 januari heeft de Raad Algemene Zaken de onderhandelingen over de Brexit verder besproken. Op 31 januari publiceerde de High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) van de Europese Commissie zijn eindverslag over duurzame financiering.

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Results January Ecofin Meeting

During the first ECOFIN meeting under the Bulgarian Presidency, the European Ministers of Finance discussed the deepening of the European Monetary Union. They set immediate priorities, such as completing the European Banking Union and developing further the European Stability Mechanism.

In order to move forward on the Banking Union, efforts must be made in risk reduction, i.e. reduce levels of non-performing loans (NPLs). In March, the Commission will present proposals to further reduce NPLS and prevent their accumulation.

During this meeting, the Council removed 8 jurisdictions from the EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes as a result of commitments made to reform their tax policies. However, these jurisdictions are still subject to close monitoring. Nine jurisdictions remain on the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. This listing process aims to promote good tax governance globally.

The Council adopted conclusions regarding the Commission’s annual growth survey that proposes to focus efforts in 2018 on boosting investment and structural reforms, as well as ensuring responsible fiscal policies. The Council also adopted conclusions on the Commission’s alert mechanism report for 2018, which identifies 12 Member States that may have macroeconomic imbalance. Finally, the Council approved a draft recommendation on the economic policies of the euro area.


During the General Affairs Council on 29 January, the EU27 ministers adopted negotiating directives for the Brexit negotiations detailing the EU27 position on the transition period. The proposed end date for the transition period is 31 December 2020. These negotiating directives aim to ensure stability for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU and to guarantee level playing field and stability for businesses.

  • Application of EU acquis: during the transition period, the whole of EU acquis, including any changes, as well as all existing EU regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures, including the competence of the EU Court of Justice, will continue to apply to the UK as if it were a Member State. As for individual pieces of legislation where the UK has a right to opt in or out, current rules will apply for acts adopted during the transition by which the UK is bound. However, the UK will no longer be allowed to opt into new measures in this area.
  • Trade policy and international deals: during the transition period, the UK remains bound by agreements concluded by the EU with third countries. The UK will have to continue to comply with EU trade policy, to apply EU customs tariff and collect EU customs duties and to ensure all EU checks are performed on the border.
  • EU institutions and bodies: the UK will no longer be a member of the EU on 29 March 2019. After this date, the UK will no longer participate in the institutions and the decision-making of the EU, nor attend meetings of Commission experts groups, committees or other entities. However, the UK could be invited to attend such meetings exceptionally.

Final report by the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance

On January 31st, the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) published its final report which sets out strategic recommendations for a financial system that supports sustainable investments.

The Commission is determined to help sustainability-conscious investors to choose suitable projects and companies and aims to finalise an EU strategy on sustainable finance on the basis of these recommendations.

Today's final report by the High-Level Expert Group maps out the challenges and opportunities that the EU faces in developing a sustainable finance policy. It identifies ways in which the financial sector can support the transition to a more resource-efficient and more circular economy.

The report proposes:

  • a classification system, or 'taxonomy', to provide market clarity on what is “sustainable”,
  • clarifying the duties of investors' when it comes to achieving a more sustainable financial system,
  • improving disclosure by financial institutions and companies on how sustainability is factored into their decision-making,
  • an EU-wide label for green investment funds,
  • making sustainability part of the mandates of the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs), and
  • a European standard for green bonds.

On the basis of this report, the European Commission will publish an action plan on sustainable finance in the beginning of March. Both the findings of the report and the Commission's Action Plan on sustainable finance will be discussed at a high-level conference on 22 March 2018 in Brussels.

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