LUXEMBOURG – - European Union finance ministers met in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss issues including plans for a financial transactions tax among a core group of countries and progress towards setting up a single banking supervisor for the region.
Following are comments from ministers and other officials ahead of the talks:
AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER MARIA FEKTER
"The plan for the single banking supervision has nothing to do with the current bank rescue package for Spain. This is on track. At the next summit the council will get an update and will then take a decision, so that I expect that the money for the Spanish banks can be paid out in the next couple of weeks."
On banking union
"We (Austria) are very critical of the European deposit guarantee scheme and enormously critical of the collectivization of debt. We are too small a country to recover and to then take on the burden from a deadbeat. That I would rather like to avoid."
GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE
On the financial transaction tax
"It wasn't a surprise to me that 11 member states are supporting cooperation on a financial transaction tax."
"A substantial part of reform has been implemented. Whether it's actually a sufficient part, is the troika's job to decide. But Greece is saying itself it hasn't implemented them all. It's completely clear that before every decision Greece must have implemented reforms so that the troika can say ���yes, that's the case'. Then you will find that there's additional need to act. That's what's being discussed, that an additional gap needs to be closed with additional measures.
"If you had been in the eurogroup meeting yesterday, you would have heard how the member states reacted and that there was broad agreement that the program has to be implemented and ��� when certain measures have not been implemented, then additional measures have to be agreed to fulfill them."
SPANISH FINANCE MINISTER LUIS DE GUINDOS
"I greatly respect the IMF forecasts ... but they are not written in stone."
"I don't think the Spanish government has been excessively optimistic regarding its (economic) forecasts for this year."
Asked if the Eurogroup asked Spain for more cuts on Monday night:
"No, absolutely not."
"There was a positive evaluation (by euro zone finance ministers of Spain's 2013 budget), of Spain's economic policy and the need to carry out a fiscal adjustment that is sensitive, sensible to the economic situation in the country.
"The only thing I can say (about the IMF's forecasts for Spain) is to try to avoid that they happen.
"Logically, we are working on the basis that such negative forecasts are not met.
"More than the projection, which is important, is to see how we are closing the Spanish macroeconomic imbalances."
Asked if Spain will ask for a bailout: "At this moment, the Spanish government will continue with reforms, continue with cutting the public deficit and after that all the doubts that exist about the future of the euro zone will dissipate."
DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JAN KEES DE JAGER
"The Netherlands is not in favor of a financial transactions tax. We are even reluctant about introduction in other countries."
On banking union:
"We should do it step by step with proved, effective supervision, so not fixed on the calendar, but fixed on the substance."
AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER MARIA FEKTER
On financial transactions tax:
"We will have a discussion and we will try to convince others, because I think this is a stabilizing measure and it would create funds for joined European safety nets, such as for example the deposit insurance scheme or the resolution of banks to reduce debt. I don't want to ask the Austrian tax payer for money for that, nobody in Austria would understand if we had to secure the deposits of the Cypriots. There should be a new source (of funds) and this could be a good argument."
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Annika Breidthardt, Eva Kuehnen and Robin Emmott in Luxembourg)