8th Conference of ECOFIN
Ministers of the Nordic and Baltic Sea Countries
ECOFIN ministers from the Nordic and Baltic Sea Countries, i.e. Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden, met for their 8th conference on June 4-5 in Reykjavík, Iceland.
The conference was hosted and chaired by the Icelandic Finance Minister, Mr. Geir H. Haarde.
The first meeting of ECOFIN Ministers of the Nordic and Baltic Sea Countries was held in 1996 and from the beginning the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries, Germany and Poland have been members of this assembly. During the last meeting the ministers agreed to invite Russia to join and the First Vice-Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation came to the meeting for the first time.
Two main topics were on the agenda:
- Structural policies to promote economic growth without inflation
- EU enlargement and exchange rate policies
The ministers discussed the importance of structural reforms in order to promote economic growth. In this context, the need for more flexible labour markets was emphasised to raise participation rates on the labour market. This was seen as particularly relevant in view of the demographic challenges and the fiscal implications of ageing facing most countries in coming years.
The issue of EU enlargement and its effects on exchange rate policies was discussed both from the point of view of new members and that of other countries both within and outside the EU. New EU members are required to fulfill the Maastricht criteria and participate in ERM II before joining the euro. Clearly outlined steps by the countries concerned towards euro adoption would be preferable since this would create a sense of stability in financial markets and with the public at large.
The ministers accepted with thanks Latvia}s offer to host the 9th Conference of ECOFIN Ministers from the Nordic and Baltic Sea Countries in May 2004.