Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Agenda

China summit and Juncker in MEP tax hearing This WEEK

EU relations with China at a summit and Jean-Claude Juncker's alleged role in a tax avoidance scandal in Luxembourg are the two big highlights this week.

After a flurry of awkward meetings with the US president last week, the EU will be turning its attention towards China.

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Leaders from both sides will be discussing trade, climate change and migration, among other issues, at the two-day summit in Brussels – scheduled to start on Thursday (1 June).

As China is the EU's second largest trading partner, the European Commission is expected to press the Asian giant to further pry open up its markets at a separate meeting on business in the margins of the summit.

But attention at the start of this week will first be focused on EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

As Luxembourg's former prime minister and finance minister, Juncker remains hard pressed to escape the increasingly long reach of the European Parliament.

Juncker had kicked off his term as commission president amid wide-spread media revelations that Luxembourg had cut secret tax deals with multinationals. Those deals shaved billions of euros off global tax bills from big firms such as Pepsi, IKEA, AIG, Coach, and Deutsche Bank.

The commission has since proposed bills to curb tax avoidance, but Juncker will now still have to face MEPs for a second time on Tuesday over his alleged role in the affair.

Earlier this year, leaked German diplomatic cables revealed that Juncker had attempted to obstruct EU tax transparency efforts during his time as Luxembourg's prime minister. The cables pose further questions over comments Juncker made during his first hearing with the MEPs in 2015, where he had denied everything.

“I didn’t set up any system in Luxembourg in order to ensure that there was tax avoidance in order to discriminate against other European member states. You actually in fact exaggerate my political talent in that respect," he told the EU parliament in September 2015.

MEPs in a special committee set up to probe tax scandals will grill Juncker on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Dutch senate is also expected to vote on a key EU treaty with Ukraine on Tuesday. The treaty had been signed in 2014, but was only provisionally implemented following a referendum in the Netherlands, which put Dutch ratification on hold last year.

The treaty was amended with a provision to appease the Dutch by stating that Ukraine won't be granted EU membership status and financial or military support. Dutch media reported that the senate is likely to vote in favour of the treaty.

On Wednesday, the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, will be presenting its annual report for 2016.

And finally, Malta will be holding general elections on Saturday. The elections come ahead of another scandal following the so-called Malta Files, which shed light on how the island nation helps corporations to dodge taxes.

Juncker denies role in tax scams

EU Commission chief Juncker says he had nothing to do with Luxembourg's sweetheart tax deals in his time as PM of the microstate.

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