EU agrees to publish oil stocks on a weekly basis
08.07.08 @ 17:25
BRUSSELS - EU finance ministers on Tuesday (8 July) agreed to publish reports on their oil reserves on a weekly basis in a bid to reassure traders and reduce the soaring fuel prices.
French finance minister Christine Lagarde - whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency - said the move to be more transparent about stocks would make it easier to get a more "coherent picture" of what is happening on the oil market, with most member states currently publishing this information on a monthly basis.
The European Commission is to outline exactly how countries will go about doing this in a report to be published in October.
The move is supposed to add some predictability to the market with some analysts suggesting that speculators are driving up the fuel prices.
However, others say it is simply a question of supply and demand - a view put forward by EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy who argued after the meeting that while speculative investors could lead to some "short-term volatility" it is the "fundamentals of the market (...) which are the main drivers."
The huge hike in oil prices which have led to strong protests across Europe in recent weeks by truckers and fishermen were subject to "lengthy exchanges" during the finance ministers' meeting.
After the discussions, it emerged that France is still using its weight as EU presidency country to push ahead with its idea of capping VAT levels on oil prices in order to ease the burden on consumers.
This step is strongly opposed by Germany and the European Commission which fear it sends out the wrong signal at a time when citizens ought to be cutting down on their oil consumption for environmental reasons.
In a reference to the VAT cap, the French finance minister urged her counterparts to look at "all measures" and to think "outside of the box" when it comes to possible steps on oil prices with the issue set to be discussed once more in autumn.
Other suggestions include a Tobin Tax – a tax on currency transactions aiming to limit speculation – and a Robin Hood tax – an extra levy on oil companies profiting from rising fuel prices.
Regulating credit rating agencies
EU finance ministers also agreed to regulate credit rating agencies in the wake of the US subprime mortgage crisis.
Critics said that the agencies had been too slow to warn investors of the unfolding crisis leaving them with almost worthless investments.
Internal market commissioner McCreevy said he would come forward with a legislative proposal in October and would concentrate on areas such as registration of agencies, disclosure and conflict of interest.