Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Agenda

EU leaders discuss energy and tax next WEEK

  • Some member states rely on Gazprom for 80 to 100 percent of their gas consumption (Photo: Joffley)

Energy and tax policy are on next WEEK’s agenda as European leaders gather in Brussels for a summit on Wednesday (22 May).

Member states want to harvest an estimated €1 trillion lost every year to tax evasion.

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It is hoped the additional funds will help alleviate a social and economic crisis that has put millions out of work.

Among the proposed solutions to help fill the state coffers is the automatic information exchange of bank account details.

Austria and Luxembourg are temporarily exempt from the automatic exchange.

Both had expressed some openness to idea following German pressure, but then blocked an EU deal to increase tax transparency last week.

Luxembourg finance minister Luc Frieden and Austria's Maria Fekter said outstanding legal issues first need to be resolved. They also want the UK to tackle evasion in its offshore tax havens.

Green economic and finance spokesperson Sven Giegold described the Austria and Luxembourg resistance as “shameless obstructionism.”

Leaders at the summit are set to ply on the pressure on both countries to lift the exemption.

Energy is also up for discussion.

Leaders are expected to focus their attention on completing the internal energy market, boosting investment in energy infrastructure, and reducing high-energy prices.

The European Commission says energy import dependence has increased in last two decades and estimates the demand for oil and gas will increase by more than 80 percent by 2035.

Commission chief Jose Barroso said the fragmented EU energy market is driving up energy prices for both consumers and businesses. He said the internal energy market must be completed through existing legislation to bring down the costs and boost revenues.

“Our discussion [at the summit] should build on February 2011 conclusions and take our policy forward,” he said in a speech in early May.

Meanwhile, euro-deputies are in Strasbourg for their plenary session.

The MEPs on Tuesday will issue resolutions to urge member states to halve the €1 trillion in uncollected taxes by 2020.

Banking supervision is also on the plenary agenda on Tuesday.

The parliament says a final vote will be postponed until it can resolve accountability issues with European Central Bank.

A vote on a draft resolution on media freedoms and pluralism is scheduled on Tuesday. Deputies the same day will also approve the new dates of 22 to 25 May for the 2014 European elections.

On Wednesday, MEPs will debate the upcoming US-EU free trade agreement with EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht.

The commission, for its part, is set to adopt on Thursday a proposal by EU transport commissioner Sim Kallas on maritime ports in Europe.

Digital commissioner Neelie Kroes is also set to present a strategy on micro-electronics and nanotechnology on Thursday.

Tax evasion on the agenda this WEEK

Tax havens and banking transparency top this week’s agenda as EU finance ministers meet to discuss the issue on Tuesday.

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The run-up to the Christmas break sees a packed schedule, including the EU summit on Brexit, migration and other issues, a rare visit by Israeli PM Netanyahu, and issues such as fishing quotas and the Panama Papers.

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Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

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