EFTA and EU Ministers of Finance and Economy met via videoconference on 4 November, with the aim to “rebuild a resilient, sustainable and thriving European economy” in response to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was chaired by German Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. The EFTA countries were represented by Finance Ministers Jan Tore Sanner (Chair, Norway), Bjarni Benediktsson (Iceland), as well as State Secretaries Markus Biedermann, (Liechtenstein) and Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch (Switzerland).
“In times like these, cooperation and unity between neighbours and friends are more important than ever,” Minister Sanner said on behalf of the EFTA States.
“Health policy has become economic policy. We know that defeating the virus is a prerequisite for a durable economic recovery. And that a broad distribution of vaccines is crucial to achieving this in the near future. To succeed, we need swift cooperation, not only in Europe, but also globally. Financing is key,” Minister Sanner said.
He thanked the EU for the good cooperation and called for support for global cooperation initiatives, such as the so-called ACT-A (The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator), where the goal is to put in place the funding needed to accelerate development, production and ensure worldwide equal access to tests, treatment and vaccines against COVID-19.
Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of the economic measures introduced in the face of the economic crisis. He pointed out that fiscal policy in particular will continue to play an important role in the future, and that it will be important to find the right balance in fiscal policy measures in order to avoid counteracting the necessary transition to a greener and more digitalised economy.
German Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz thanked the EFTA countries for their cooperation and response to the global pandemic.
“I believe we will get out of this crisis with a stronger Europe, a more resilient, greener and more modern economy,” he said.
Besides beating the pandemic, the EFTA States delivered three key messages to the EU finance ministers:
- To use the opportunity to make European economies better prepared for well-known challenges ahead, by increasing employment and preventing long-term unemployment, as well as to manage the digital transition, create greener economies and mitigate climate risks.
- To secure open markets and rules-based international trade. This is important both for the near-term recovery and for growth in the longer term.
- To make sure that fiscal policies are on a sustainable path, which is crucial for the ability to mitigate future shocks, but must be delicately balanced against the need for stimulus now.
Read the Common Paper of the EFTA States: Addressing the Corona Crisis - How to rebuild a resilient, sustainable and thriving European economy
Read the statement of EFTA Chair Jan Tore Sanner.
The EFTA ECOFIN meeting is the annual meeting between the finance ministers of the EU and EFTA where economic issues of common interest are discussed. The meeting is held in connection with a meeting of the EU Council of Finance and Economic Affairs (ECOFIN).
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