(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Thank you and good evening. The fact that we are meeting in person is a sign that things are moving in the right direction. We can see this through the figures of our vaccination campaign.
The EU is on track to reach the target of 70% of the adult population vaccinated earlier than previously expected – this means in early August rather than mid-September. As an aside, let me recall another aspect of the vaccination campaign, the fact that also our vaccine production – 600 million doses – has been distributed worldwide. Half of these doses have been exported to over 90 countries.
COVID cases are declining but we cannot be complacent.
Our economies are reopening. Eurostat published last week results on the first quarter showing that the decline in GDP was only half what we had previously forecasted. This puts us on a stronger basis for the rebound. I will present the Commission’s summer economic forecast on 7 July.
So in terms of both the health situation and the economic outlook, we can clearly say: summer is coming.
We have now adopted our proposals for Council implementing decisions for four countries: Portugal, Spain, Greece and Denmark. Tomorrow will be the turn of Luxembourg; several more will follow next week to allow the first NextGen funds to flow to countries before the summer break. In other words, Next Generation EU is taking off.
In this Eurogroup meeting, as Paschal just said, we discussed further good news for Greece because the Eurogroup agreed, subject to the completion of national procedures, to move forward with the next round of debt measures worth €748 million for Greece, based on the positive assessment by the Commission and the Institutions in the enhanced surveillance report.
The Greek authorities have maintained a strong pace of reform in spite of the difficult situation of the pandemic crisis.
To name just three: the insolvency reform that came into force on 1 June; the extension of the Hercules scheme; and good progress as regards the public administration reform.
Of course challenges remain, as highlighted in the statement published this evening, for instance with regard to the financial sector and arrears clearance.
A few remarks on the discussion we had on the IMF assessment.
We noted a broad convergence on the IMF assessment and our analysis in the Eurogroup, the Commission statements.
This convergence is very important and we concur on the need to avoid a too early withdrawal of policy support and on the need to gradually transition towards more targeted measures that provide support to distressed but viable firms.
Lastly just a few words on the Banking Union, building on what Paschal just said. This is such an important topic for the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, and we all know it is also a challenging one.
We made progress but this agreement needs to be robust, convincing and credible, so we need to keep working and persevering. Something that Paschal did not say is that all the colleagues around the table were very warmly and strongly supporting his personal commitment and the work he has done in these weeks, and months.
I am not saying this only formally; it was really a political capital to build in the next months to reach further steps in this agreement and I can assure you that from the side of the Commission we will continue to contribute to this work and bring it to a positive conclusion.