Thank you Minister,
If we are standing here today, running European day-to-day business, it is because 30 years ago, in the night of 8th to 9th November the Berlin Wall came down.
The fall of the Berlin Wall - the fall of the Iron Curtain in fact - was one of the greatest and most unexpected events of the 20th century. It triggered colossal change - not only on our continent but also worldwide.
Germany became one again. Europe became open and united.
It is our watch now. It is up to us to safeguard Europe's values and unity in these challenging times, when unexpected things might happen.
Now moving back to today's ECOFIN, let me congratulate Prof. Isabel Schnabel on her endorsement by the Ministers to the post of an ECB Executive Board Member. All the success in the next procedural steps!
The Council's agenda today was heavy on the tax side.
We were happy to see closure on a number of VAT files. The EU's VAT system will now be further equipped to recoup the €5 billion lost to VAT fraud in the e-commerce sector each year following new rules agreed today.
For the first time, payment service providers such as credit card companies will need to make relevant data on online purchases available to anti-fraud authorities in the EU.
Further decisions taken in the field of VAT today will help to cut red tape for SMEs and will simplify VAT and excise duty rules for EU Member State armed forces.
We regret the fact that we weren't able to get a decision today on excise duty for alcohol. All the technical work has been completed, so we were ready for a political agreement.
One agreement in the area of excise duty did get over the line. We welcome the fact that ministers were able to move forward on more general improvements to excise duty rules which will simplify life and reduce costs for SMEs, while also helping to cut down on fraud.
Finally, we had a forward-looking discussion on the international efforts to reform corporate taxation. The Commission will continue to play an active role alongside our Member States. We need to ensure that the interests and needs of the EU and our Single Market as a whole are taken into account as much as possible in any final agreement.
Last but not least we had a discussion on crypto assets, including stablecoins, with a view to adopting Council conclusions in December.
There is a broad understanding that to compete globally, Europe should embrace technological innovation, including in the financial sector.
Stablecoins, for example, present opportunities for cheap and fast payments especially in cross-border operations as well as financial inclusion. At the same time, we should also consider the risks. In addressing risks, we should differentiate between smaller-scale FinTech activities and global stablecoin initiatives.
We should consider both the opportunities and challenges presented by global stablecoins.
Libra, for example, is a wake-up call to the European institutions and market players. It indicates that yes, clearly, there is a gap in offer for cheap, fast and convenient payments. This is what we should be working on.
For the EU to build scale and have a leading role in payments and capital market operations, we will need to ensure a common approach with Member States on crypto-assets.
Also market players could benefit from legal certainty as they will be able to advance with new ideas, while understanding the risks that regulators worry about. Not to kill but support innovation and address risks in a proportionate way.