§ Mr. Gordon Brown
I chaired the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Brussels on 1 May, and again on 3 May. The Council also met (in the composition of Heads of State or Government) on Saturday 2 May. The Prime Minister has already reported on this to the House in his statement of 5 May 1998,Official Report, columns 563–65. The Economic Secretary represented the UK.
On 1 May, the Council began by considering the Commission's Recommendations on the abrogation of excessive deficits. The Council concurred with the Commission's Recommendations, and agreed unanimously to decisions abrogating the deficits of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and the UK. These decisions were then formally notified to the relevant delegations, to allow the Council to move to its next business.
As laid down in Article 109j(2), the Council then discussed its Recommendations on those countries fulfilling the necessary conditions for the adoption of the single currency. We agreed without dissent that Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal met those conditions. We agreed to attach to our Recommendation a declaration on the importance of fiscal consolidation and structural adjustment.
On 3 May, we approved two important A-points (on the technical specifications of euro coin, and the legal framework for the euro). Finance Ministers from the participating Member States then went on to sign formal receipts of the notification of the Heads' decision on those countries which fulfilled the necessary conditions for the adoption of the single currency.177W
ECOFIN then formally adopted its recommendation on initial appointment of the members of the ECB Executive Board, which will go back to Heads for formal approval, after consultation with the European Parliament and European Monetary Institute.
The Council also appointed the three of the six members of the committee which proposes the terms and conditions of employment of the ECB Executive Board that it falls to them to nominate. My colleagues Mr. Ciampi, Mr. Juncker, and Mr. Sousa Franco were agreed by the Council.
The Council adopted conclusions on the Commission's Recommendations on the practical aspects of the euro, welcoming the Commission's initiative, but noting their non-binding nature.
We adopted conclusions welcoming the progress the Greek Government have made towards the convergence required for participation in stage 3 of EMU, and their objective of joining in 2001, while noting that the requirements of the Treaty would have to be met in full.