Good afternoon everyone.
This has been an extraordinary period for everyone in Europe, at every level. Now, our hard work to tackle the socio-economic damage caused by the pandemic is paying off.
The economy is bouncing back from the recession, driven by a rebound in demand across Europe.
We expect the EU's economy to grow at 5% for this year.
But we are not out of the woods yet. The economic outlook remains riddled with uncertainty.
New risks are emerging, many of them on the downside. The evolution and spread of the virus itself, to start with.
As we know, cases are on the rise in many parts of Europe.
Surging consumer and housing prices are other concerns, as are bottlenecks in vital supply chains.
As we emerge from this crisis, the priority is to achieve competitive sustainability:
-to make Europe economically and socially stronger;
-more resilient to cope with future shocks;
-better equipped to make the most of opportunities offered by the green and digital transitions.
This is all reflected in our Annual Sustainable Growth Survey.
These aims are also very much linked with the Recovery and Resilience Facility: to give EU economies the boost they need and to start rebuilding for the future.
Given the risks that I mentioned, we must be able to adjust our policies as - and when - required.
The European Semester remains our primary tool for coordinating the EU's economic, fiscal and employment policies.
We have integrated the RRF into the Semester to make the most of the synergies between the two, and also avoiding overlaps.
In this cycle, we focus on what is needed for an inclusive recovery and a fair transition towards greener and more digital economies.
Our regular country reports and country-specific recommendations will come out in spring 2022.
On employment, for example, while EU labour markets are recovering, job numbers have not yet returned to pre-crisis levels.
At the same time, some businesses are weighed down by financial difficulties due to the crisis.
It is also true that some jobs may disappear. But many others will be created through the green and digital transitions.
This is why we need active labour market policies and support for those in job transitions. Nicolas will say more on this.
Europe also needs strong and competitive companies.
We need to improve their access to finance, strengthen their balance sheets and improve the effectiveness of insolvency proceedings.
Tomorrow, the Commission will present a package of proposals that will take us a step closer towards the Capital Markets Union and also enhance the growth of the EU economy.
On the fiscal side, we should continue to provide targeted and temporary support in 2022.
When conditions permit, EU countries should aim to achieve sustainability for the medium term.
As we know, the general escape clause will remain active throughout next year and then be deactivated as of 2023.
On the draft budgetary plans for 2022: the Commission has assessed whether they are in line with last spring's fiscal guidance.
Overall, the plans support the economy and preserve nationally financed investments - as recommended. They also make good use of the RRF to finance additional investments, which will be important for creating jobs and growth in the years ahead.
On some specific opinions:
We did not adopt an opinion on Portugal's draft budgetary plan as it was rejected by the Parliament. The new government is invited to resubmit its plan once it takes office.
In the case of Italy - and to a lesser extent for Latvia and Lithuania - we would sound a note of caution over the rapid growth in national current spending.
In addition, given their high level of debt, it is important that Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Spain maintain sustainable public finances.
I will now turn to macroeconomic imbalances.
Here, putting the reforms and investments contained in each national recovery plan into effect will help a great deal.
The pandemic struck as most imbalances were going through the process of correction.
This process was halted and we saw a rise in public and private debt, a surge in housing prices and the reappearance of bottlenecks in the labour market.
We will carry out in-depth reviews for the nine Member States already identified with imbalances - Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden - and three with excessive imbalances: Cyprus, Greece and Italy.
And finally, some brief words on Greece and Romania.
Today, we adopted the report under enhanced surveillance for Greece. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Greece has made further progress towards achieving the agreed commitments.
The report could serve as a basis for the Eurogroup to decide on the release of the next set of policy-contingent debt measures.
Romania, which has been under the excessive deficit procedure since April 2020, has achieved its intermediate budget balance target for 2021.
We will reassess the situation once Romania's new government presents a medium-term fiscal strategy and the budget for 2022.
Thank you and now I pass the floor to Paolo.