§ Ruth Kelly
The Chancellor and the Paymaster General attended ECOFIN on 13 December.
On the introduction of the euro the Commission summarised the main points of the recently published Eurobarometer poll.
ECOFIN agreed a statement of the economic situation, which was submitted to the Laeken European Council.
The Commission reported that important progress had been made on implementation of the financial services action plan under the Belgian presidency. Six new proposals would be tabled by the Commission in 2002, including an update of the Investment Services Directive and the Capital Adequacy Directive. The Commission planned a mid-term review of the action plan before the Barecelona European Council in March 2002.
ECOFIN agreed a general orientation on a directive on combating market abuse. UK secured its negotiating objectives to deliver an effects-based regime with appropriate safeguards for innocent behaviour. Once the 817W European Parliament has completed its first reading of the directive, the Council should be able to agree a formal common position.
ECOFIN also agreed a general orientation on the amended collateral directive, which is designed to ensure legal certainty for cross-border and domestic collateral arrangements. This is another step forward in the completion of a single market in financial services.
A general orientation was established on a compromise text for a draft regulation on accounting standards, which provides for the adoption of international accounting standards throughout the EU. The agreement is subject to a final Memorandum of Understanding between the European Commission and the International Accounting Standards Committee Federation on the subject of copyright.
The Commission presented an interim version of their Globalisation and Development Report. The final report will be published in February 2002.
On VAT on e-commerce, a text was agreed providing for the adoption of an electronic portal solution with a time-limited interim arrangement. This meets the UK's objective of introducing a non-burdensome method of applying VAT to products downloaded from the internet, which will be non-discriminatory and apply at the place of consumption.
On the proposed directive for ensuring effective taxation of savings income, ECOFIN reconfirmed the agreement reached at the Feira European Council in June 2000, and agreed a text to form the basis for negotiations with third countries.
ECOFIN also discussed the proposed energy products directive. The Chancellor stressed that any directive must allow the UK to exempt domestic fuel from minimum duty rates. The presidency reported the discussion to the European Council at Laeken.
No votes were taken at the meeting.