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25th Jul 2021

EU states loosen grip on tax havens

  • Panama City. Panama is now off the EU blacklist of tax havens (Photo: Falco Ermert)

EU finance ministers removed on Tuesday (23 January) eight 'entities' - countries and territories - from the tax havens blacklist, while ruling out more transparency or sanctions.

Barbados, Grenada, South Korea, Macao, Mongolia, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates were taken from the list of 17 "non-cooperative" countries and jurisdictions that was only established in December.



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They were added to a 'grey' list of some 50 jurisdictions that have pledged to change their legislation on taxation but have still to take and implement measures.

EU ministers considered that the eight entities have made sufficient commitments to address "deficiencies identified by the EU" when it established the black list.

"Our listing process is already proving its worth," said Bulgaria's minister Vladislav Goranov, whose country chairs the council of ministers.

While some officials considered that the move was premature, Goranov added that "the main task will be to ensure those jurisdictions implement the efforts they have committed to."

He insisted that the EU's aim was to make offshore tax schemes "a thing of the past."

Oxfam, which published a report on tax havens in November, regretted that the EU was "undermining" its own process.

"The EU is rushing to take countries off the blacklist without it being clear what they have actually committed to improve," said the NGO's Aurore Chardonnet.

Markus Ferber, a German MEP from the centre-right EPP group, called the decision "a confession of failure."

"Instead of crossing jurisdictions off the list, finance ministers should have improved the list by imposing sanctions on those countries on the list," he said.



But possible sanctions, which have also been demanded by EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici, as well as by countries like France and the Netherlands, were not discussed by ministers.

The EU expects the grey list countries and territories to meet their commitments by the end of the year.

"They have to follow through their commitment or may end up back on the black list," commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis warned.


No deadlines

But Goranov, speaking as coordinator of the ministers' work, insisted that there should not be "fixed deadlines for updating the list."

"There should be a very interactive and repetitive procedure," he said. "Anytime it is decided that someone needs to be encouraged or dissuaded, the mechanism should be triggered without fixing deadlines."

The EU finance chiefs also rejected the EU commission's demand to publish the letters in which tax havens commit to changes their legislations, in the name of transparency and accountability.

Goranov said that the EU may only ask the jurisdictions if they are willing to make their commitments public.

He explained that it would be "unfair" to publish them without their permission, because the EU required commitments "without telling them these commitments would be revealed."

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