EU finance ministers have agreed a package of budgetary discipline and economic governance measures to help restore confidence in the EU economy.
The new rules, which representatives from member states will now discuss with the European Parliament, include tighter monitoring of debt and deficit levels, and sanctions for countries that breach pre-defined levels.
Officials from Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers and has been spearheading the negotiations, said they hoped agreement with MEPs will be reached in time for the policy to be adopted at the European Council of 24 June.
Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, told reporters after the meeting today that the legislative package was “the cornerstone of the response to the eurozone crisis”.
The general approach is based on the proposals put forward by the European Commission last September and the subsequent report of an economic governance taskforce chaired by Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.
Four proposals in the package concern reform of the EU’s stability and growth pact. They are aimed at enhancing the surveillance of fiscal policies, introducing provisions on national fiscal frameworks and applying enforcement measures more consistently and at an earlier stage.
The other two proposals target macroeconomic imbalances.
The European Parliament’s economic committee is expected to adopt its report on the legislative package on 19-20 April. Formal discussions between the Parliament, Commission and Council are expected to begin soon after.
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Finance ministers today also discussed increasing global oil prices, measures to regulate derivatives selling and short-selling and further monitoring of bank bonuses.
After the meeting, Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the internal market, said he was considering legislative proposals to curb bonuses paid to bankers.
He said: “I don’t feel my appeal for moderation has been listened to and we will evaluate the situation and if need be propose further steps.”