Member States agreed to fast-track financial reforms because of their significant impacts on jobs and growth

The Member States agreed to accelerate structural reforms in line with the recommendations made in the context of the European semester. The European Council identified a number of priorities which should be fast-tracked because of their significant impact on jobs and growth in the short to medium term. It also called for a stronger focus to the growth-enhancing aspects of the European Union's external policies in order to maximise their contribution to growth in Europe and to shape the conditions to attract more foreign investment.

According to the conclusions of the latest European Council meeting, Member States are willing to fast-track the financial reforms. Within this framework, the European Council identified a limited number of key priorities for internal economic policy that need to be pursued in the short term in order to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive and green growth. These priorities are the Single Market, which plays a key role in delivering growth and employment. The efforts should be made to ensure agreement by the end of 2012 on the 12 priority proposals set out in the Single Market Act, giving utmost priority to those which can bring the most benefits to growth and jobs. Also, the full implementation of the Services Directive - the proposals were made in 2010 -  because it will also deliver significant economic gains; Member States should complete its implementation by the end of this year and ensure that the points of single contact are fully operational and that economic operators are fully informed of the new opportunities it offers. In addition, Member States invites the Commission to further concentrate efforts to reduce the overall regulatory burden, in particular for SMEs, including by proposing concrete working methods within the context of the Smart Regulation agenda.

On the other hand, the European Council agreed on the importance of the energy, including energy efficiency, as well as research and innovation as key areas for the promotion of growth. Member States also called for the adoption before the end of the year of the proposals to temporarily increase cofinancing rates for EU funds, accompanied by a targeting of those funds on growth, competitiveness and employment. The EIB is invited to examine in close cooperation with the Commission the possibilities of further contributing to boosting investment in Europe, including for countries implementing an adjustment programme. Moreover, strengthening financial regulation remains a key priority at the EU and the global level. Thus, the European Council welcomes the agreement reached on short selling and calls for the speedy adoption of other important legislative proposals such as those relating to OTC derivatives and deposit guarantee schemes by the end of this year, and the ones on capital requirements by summer 2012. It welcomes the proposals on markets in financial instruments and market abuse and looks forward to the proposals the Commission will make on credit rating agencies and bank crisis management and resolution. The European Council agreed on the need for coherence of the activities of the Euro area and the European Union, in full respect of the integrity of the European Union as a whole and its operation at 27.

According to Member States, Europe must continue to promote free, fair and open trade whilst at the same time asserting its interests, in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit in relation to the world's largest economies. Therefore, the European Council agreed that determined action is necessary to maintain financial stability, restore confidence and support growth and job creation. It also suggested that the G20 should approve an ambitious action plan containing specific commitments and measures from all G20 countries to respond to the serious challenges emanating from the current economic slowdown and to ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth while implementing credible fiscal consolidation.

Additionally, the European Council welcomed the announcement of the cessation of ETA’s terrorist activity. Members States agreed that is undoubtedly the victory of democracy and freedom in Spain and throughout the Union, and in this respect the European Council wishes to express its appreciation to the Government, political parties, security forces, the Law Enforcement authorities and the whole of Spanish society for their steadfastness and determination in the long struggle against terrorist violence.