Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, thank you Andrej for hosting us here in Brdo, with beautiful views on the Slovenian Alps, and for the excellent organisation of the meeting
Let me start with the economy, where we have signs of a solid economic recovery. The GDP figures released this week for the second quarter were above expectations.
Growth over the summer was also strong.
All EU countries will return to their 2019 GDP levels this year or next. And the economic differences between them were not as great as initially thought.
While Europe's response to the crisis was successful, we know that the level of fiscal support applied during the pandemic cannot last forever. When the time is right, we should start gradually reducing fiscal deficits and debt.
At the same time, all countries should improve the quality of public finances, and also their composition - both revenue and expenditure.
That will create room for them to invest in areas with potential to create growth and jobs, like the green and digital transitions.
This a dual task here: to reduce deficits and to invest. This will require solid planning and finding revenue.
This is where the Recovery and Resilience Facility will play an important role. EU countries should make good use of the RRF funding.
Since its grants will not create an additional burden for public finances, it really presents a unique opportunity.
However, investments alone will not be enough.
They must go together with structural reforms, as set out in the national recovery plans.
In particular, this means having business environments with incentives for investments and free from bottlenecks.
I will now turn to taxation.
A large majority of EU countries have endorsed the OECD agreement on international corporate taxation. This is a major turning point.
We now have until October to finalise it - and we still hope to get the remaining three Member States on board.
However, the OECD agreement is only one part of our agenda for EU business taxation for the 21st century.
We presented our communication on this in May and we will continue to put it into effect.
For the longer term, we want a corporate tax system that enables fair and sustainable growth and investment, meets public financing needs and supports the green and digital transitions.
On digital finance: ministers had an interesting discussion on Fintech yesterday, with a focus on blockchain technologies.
We agreed that Fintech can give consumers better financial products. For companies, it can open new funding channels.
This is also the objective of our digital finance package: to create a competitive EU financial sector that gives consumers access to innovative financial services.
However, digital technologies do not come without risks. So we are making sure to protect consumers while promoting innovation.
We are now putting the strategy into effect as part of our broader agenda to make Europe fit for the digital age.
On that note, the negotiations on the Commission's proposal to regulate markets in crypto-assets - or MiCA regulation - need to progress further.
And lastly, a few words on the global dimension.
Ministers discussed ways to channel IMF Special Drawing Rights to help countries in need to support their economies and keep fighting the Covid crisis.
Last month saw the IMF allocate $650 billion in SDRs, the largest allocation in the institution's history. We strongly welcome this boost in global reserves to help vulnerable countries.
Since EU countries are among the largest SDR beneficiaries, many of them should be able to contribute on a voluntary basis. And we encourage them to support and take part in this exercise.