Council of the European Union and European Committees
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin)
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin), composed of the Economics and Finance Ministers of the Member States, generally meets once a month under the chair of the rotating EU Presidency. The Minister for Finance, represents Ireland at these meetings and chaired the Council during the first half of 2013.
The Ecofin Council covers EU policy in a number of areas including: economic policy coordination, economic surveillance, monitoring of Member States’ budgetary policy and public finances, the euro (legal, practical and international aspects), financial markets and capital movements and economic relations with third countries. It decides mainly by qualified majority, in consultation or co-decision with the European Parliament. Fiscal matters are generally decided by unanimity. The Ecofin Council also prepares and adopts every year, together with the European Parliament, the budget of the European Union.
On the council website you can find information on all Council meetings, including the agenda, background note, and webcasts of all open sessions.
The Eurogroup is a meeting of the Finance Ministers of the Member States which have adopted the Euro as their official currency. This meeting is chaired by the Eurogroup President (currently Jeroen Dijsselbloem – Dutch Finance Minister). The Eurogroup typically meets ahead of each Ecofin council meeting. Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Finance, represents Ireland at these meetings
More information can be found on the Eurogroup website.
Presidency of the Council
The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among the 28 Member States every six months. During this six-month period, the Presidency chairs meetings at every level, proposes guidelines and draws up the compromises needed for the Council to take decisions. The Presidency also represents the Council in its dealings with other EU Institutions.
Ireland held the Presidency for the seventh time from January to June 2013. A summary report of the main Irish achievements can be found here.
Luxembourg is the current holder of the Presidency http://www.eu2015lu.eu/en
Future Presidencies are as follows:
- 2015 (July-December) – Luxembourg
- 2016 (January-June) – Netherlands
- 2016 (July-December) – Slovakia
- 2017 (January-June) – Malta
- 2017 (July-December) – United Kingdom
There are many Committees involved in preparing the work of the Ecofin and Eurogroup. Officials from Member States participate in these Committees. These include –
- Economic and Financial Committee: The work of the EFC includes assessments of the economic and financial situation, the coordination of economic and fiscal policies, contributions on financial market matters, exchange rate polices and relations with third countries and international institutions. This Committee also provides the framework for preparing and pursuing the dialogue between the Council and the European Central Bank. The work of the EFC is supported and prepared by Economic and Financial Alternates Committee.
- Eurogroup Working Group: The Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) provides assistance to the Eurogroup and its President in preparing ministers’ discussions. It brings together representatives of the finance ministers of the euro area countries, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. The group usually meets once a month ahead of Eurogroup meetings.
- Economic Policy Committee: The Economic Policy Committee focuses on structural reforms, including EU coordination of economic policy within the Europe 2020 reform strategy and the European Semester. The Committee deals with a range of areas including labour, product and service market reforms, the quality and sustainability of public finances, growth and employment. The EPC also supports the work of the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC). In addition, the EPC has a number of sub-committees which deal with issues which need longer-term planning, such as ageing populations, energy and climate change, the quality of public finances, labour market, structural reforms etc
- Coreper: The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) also has a key role in preparing the work of the Ecofin Council. Member States are represented by their ambassadors to the European Union at these meetings. In turn, there are many working groups involved in preparing the work of Coreper. These groups are made up of representatives of the Member States.
Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU
The Permanent Representation, Ireland’s biggest diplomatic mission, is staffed by representatives from nearly every Government Department. The Ambassador to the European Union is the lead official in the Permanent Representation. The main function of the Permanent Representation is to promote and represent Ireland’s interests in the Council of Ministers and to work closely with the European Parliament and with the European Commission.
The Department of Finance currently has five staff in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU. The Finance team is comprised of a Financial Counsellor, two Financial Services Attachés, a Fiscal Attaché and a Budget Attaché.
Key elements of the role of the Finance Section include:
- Supporting the Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the EU, in particular at Coreper (the Committee of Permanent Representatives). The current Irish Permanent Representative to the EU is Ambassador Declan Kelleher.
- Assistance to Ministers and others during their visits to Brussels.
- Advancing Irish policy objectives and the Department’s mission in EU matters under direction from the Department of Finance.
- Participation in the various Council working groups dealing with economic, financial, fiscal and EU Budget issues.
- Ensuring good communication between the Department in Dublin and contacts in the EU institutions and other Member States.
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