EUROPE - The European Union is to step up efforts to fully integrate member states financial markets, claiming that it would act as a catalyst for economic growth.
At the latest ECOFIN meeting in the Spanish town of Oviedo, European politicians and banking chiefs agreed to step up efforts to create a single financial market, by finishing the implementation of the European Commission's (EC) Financial Services Action Plan (FSAP) by 2005.
According to the attendees, a fully integrated financial market would boost economic growth across all sectors of the economy and productivity. It would also serve to provide consumers and businesses - particularly SMEs - with better quality financial products, at lower costs.
Delegates at the Oviedo meeting agreed that the accelerated integration of financial markets should be market-led, with politicians facilitating the process by removing all legal, regulatory, tax and other administrative obstacles to financial integration.
The informal meeting - attended by member states' finance ministers and central bank governors, along with the EC and the President of the European Central Bank - also agreed on the need to Promote consistent implementation and enforcement of regulations.
To that end, the EC, finance ministries and national regulatory bodies are being encouraged to suggest appropriate arrangements by September 2002.
Additionally, ministers said that the financial services industry should be engaged in the process of improving the implementation of EU regulations.
Conference attendees also urged the Commission - in the interests of enabling effective and fair competition - to apply competition policy rules to financial markets, including cross-border mergers and acquisitions.
By Geoffrey Ho
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