Fabian Demicoli

News in brief

European leaders agree on immediate action to address market tensions – European leaders have agreed on immediate steps to forcefully address current market tensions. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is to be leveraged and leaders agreed to accelerate deployment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The ESM treaty should now enter into force in July 2012. When the financial and economic sustainability of the euro area is threatened, an ESM emergency voting procedure will ensure swift decision-making. Furthermore, euro area and other Member States will decide within 10 days whether to provide additional resources for the IMF of up to EUR 200 billion (USD 270 billion), in the form of bilateral loans. As for private sector involvement, the EU will henceforth strictly adhere to well established IMF principles and practices.

European leaders agree on "fiscal compact"

To move more strongly towards a genuine "fiscal stability union", euro area Member States have agreed on a "fiscal compact". Several other Member States have indicated their readiness to take part after consulting their Parliaments. The goal of the compact, as a response to the current crisis, is to strengthen fiscal discipline and introduce more automatic sanctions and stricter surveillance. The main elements of the fiscal compact include a requirement for national budgets to be in balance or in surplus and a requirement to incorporate this rule into national legal systems at constitutional or equivalent level. Similarly, the rules governing the Excessive Deficit Procedure will be further reinforced. In addition, and based on the Commission proposals of 23 November, if, after examining draft budgetary plans, the Commission identifies particularly serious non-compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact, it will request a revised draft budgetary plan.

New EU fundraising rules to boost venture capital for SMEs and ease access
The European Commission has presented a strategy to promote better access to finance for SMEs. The EU Action Plan, released on 7 December, calls for increased financial support from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank. It also includes a proposal for a regulation that will make it easier for venture capitalists to raise funds across Europe by introducing a single rulebook for marketing funds. A related measure announced at the end of November, allows the use of structural funds to invest in enterprises at any stage of their normal business activity and not only at the time when they are established or are expanding, as was the case until now. As a result of a fall in lending to the real economy during the current crisis, it has become increasingly difficult for SMEs to access loans. Access to finance, however, is essential to enhance SMEs' competiveness and growth potential.

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