Thank you and good afternoon.
It was a future-orientated agenda for today's Eurogroup. I think it is important to stress that, while we are all working to implement the important decisions taken in previous months, we are also working very hard under Paschal's leadership to move forward.
As Paschal said, we discussed Banking Union. It is a challenging issue, but I think we had a good discussion. The discussion focused on how our work should be structured going forward. This reflects the request from the Euro Summit last December for the Eurogroup to prepare “a stepwise and time-bound work plan on all outstanding elements needed to complete the Banking Union”. This is what the Euro Summit asked the Eurogroup. This is difficult, but important work.
Since the last crisis, for which we were unprepared, we have set up a single supervisor; a single resolution mechanism; and since last December, an agreement on a backstop for the single resolution fund to enter into force next year.
At the same time, we all know that our Banking Union is incomplete. We need progress now that we are focused on unprecedented challenges. The Commission is strongly committed to agreeing on such a work plan. This should ensure progress on all work streams over time, in a comprehensive manner. We very much believe that we should commit collectively to having concrete deliverables during this institutional mandate.
I share Paschal's confidence that we can reach this goal.
We had a useful discussion on corporate insolvency frameworks. The Commission has started preparatory work to identify areas where convergence in insolvency rules would give tangible benefits - and could be useful without compromising national rules, especially where they work efficiently.
Cross-country differences in insolvency regimes lead to fragmentation of EU capital markets. This convergence is also important to avoid the build-up of non-performing loans in the coming months and for future crises.
So that is the backdrop against which we intend to take an initiative to enhance convergence of insolvency laws as announced in the Capital Markets Union action plan presented by the Commission last September.
Finally, the Commission supports the exploration of a digital euro project that Christine Lagarde presented to the Eurogroup this morning. This is a potentially important element of a strong and innovative digital finance sector and more efficient and resilient payment systems. A digital euro could also support broader policy objectives: the digitalisation of our economy; open strategic autonomy; and strengthening the international role of the euro
The ECB's consultation on this topic has helped make clear what matters for citizens and firms, starting with privacy and security. It has brought home that a digital euro implies both opportunities and risks, which need to be carefully taken into account as we move forward. That's why the Commission is engaged in very close cooperation with the ECB at technical level on this project.
We need to understand better, just to mention a few examples:
-how the digital euro could induce further gains in payment efficiency;
-how it could improve financial inclusion;
-how the digital euro should be distributed;
-how it could support the digitalisation of the economy more broadly and building a digital single market;
-and how to ensure respect for the highest standards of data protection and anti-money laundering.
These are vitally important questions. I want to be clear that it will take time to work through, both technically and legally. And of course, in terms of policy choices. So we look forward to continuing to cooperate closely with the ECB, and, as Paschal said, on engaging in ongoing discussions on this topic in the Eurogroup, but also with the European Parliament, as work proceeds.