Monday

19th Oct 2020

EU Commission takes aim at national veto powers

The European Commission has outlined more than two dozen new proposals and initiatives it wants tabled before next May.

The move is part of a larger effort by the institution to lay the course of what it describes as a "more democratic Europe."

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The proposals are geared towards priority areas defined by Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission president.

On Tuesday (24 October), in a statement, he said the focus will be on "turning proposals into law, into practice."

Some of the ideas are likely to generate debate.

Among them is a plan to prevent EU states from using veto powers to block legislation in areas that usually demand an unanimous agreement, like in taxation.

Taxation is often seen as a national prerogative where some EU states like Luxembourg and Malta have managed to prevent EU-level reforms given their veto powers.

But the EU commission is now pushing for a qualified majority voting based on article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty for legislation on "internal market matters" in an effort to break such deadlocks.

Juncker had last month described a so-called 'passerelle clause' in the article as a way to reduce vote powers in terms of fairer taxation.

"I want decisions in the Council to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority," he had said in his state of the union address in Strasbourg.

He noted it could be used in areas like a financial transaction tax.

But such a tax would likely be blocked by Luxembourg. In late June, Luxembourg's prime minister Xavier Bettel, told this website he would not support it.

"There are some countries that want a financial transation tax, FTT, I am fully against and I will block that," he said.

While the Commission's plan will be floated next year, it will not be initiated anytime soon. It gave a 2025 launch date.

Another proposal is asking internet giants and tech firms like Google and Facebook to pay more and fairer taxes.

The firms, along with many others, have managed to evade paying into coffers via secret deals with national tax authorities in Luxembourg and elsewhere.

Another aims to create a dedicated euro budget and a European monetary fund to prevent a repeat of the Greek financial crisis.

It also seeks to set up, in a non-legislative proposal, a "democratically accountable" permanent European minister of economy and finance.

Other broad lines on security, migration, energy, trade, climate change, digital market, jobs and growth have also been proposed.

On jobs and growth, the plan is to deliver on the so-called circular economy where products and materials are reused or retrofitted.

EU lawmakers can expect to see a new proposal on the reuse and recycling of plastics, as well as regulation on the minimum quality requirements for reused water.

On the digital single market, an initiative will be floated against the spread of fake news.

The EU also aims at finalising trade agreements with Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam and wants to advance talks with Australia and New Zealand.

It will also look into Serbia and Montenegro as part of a long-term strategy on EU enlargement.

Analysis

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EU financial transaction tax on life support

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Investigation

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Under EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, transparency was supposed to be a "guiding principle". Instead, the European Commission is asking Kafkaesque questions in response to an access to documents request, and failing to meet its legal deadline.

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