Ecofin Council” “

The informal Council of EU Ministers of the economy and finance met at Stresa on 12 and 13 September. The meeting tackled the issues of the reduction of VAT, the excessive bureaucracy that is hampering commercial and financial transactions and the relation between the Euro area and the Asian system. As regards an analysis of the business cycle, whose negative trend has been interrupted in 2003, the outgoing President of the European Central Bank Wim Duisenberg declared that the recovery of the European economy would be “slow, gradual but constant”. Fears for reduced if not negative growth nonetheless remain high. On a modification of the Stability Pact, firmly defended by Commissioner Solbes and by the ECB itself, several EU countries, including the UK, France, Germany and Italy declared their support for greater flexibility of the parameters to guarantee the stability of public accounts, in response to an international situation in which the American deficit oscillates between 4 and 5% and Japan’s exceeds l’8%. In the Euro area, the current deficit, by contrast, is equivalent to 3% while economic growth for 2003 is unlikely to exceed half a percentage point.

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