Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

French leader promises anti-tax-cheat crusade

French leader Francois Hollande has promised to "eradicate" tax havens in the EU and in the wider world, after his approval rating fell to 26 percent following a tax evasion scandal.

Speaking on national TV on Wednesday (10 April), he said the "sad" Cahuzac affair has "altered the image of the [French] Republic, of our country and of our political life."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Jerome Cahuzac, his former budget minister, is currently changing where he sleeps every two days in a bid to avoid the French press pack after it came out in March he hid €600,000 in a secret account in Switzerland.

"Tax havens must be eradicated in Europe and around the world," Hollande told the French nation.

He said his cabinet will discuss three new laws on 24 April before posting them to parliament. He also said his ministers will next Monday publish details of their financial interests.

One of the laws will create a "High Authority" to scrutinise ministers' declarations, as well as future disclosures to be made by MPs, top local councillors and top civil servants.

The second one will create a special anti-corruption prosecutor, to take over existing powers from the interior ministry and the finance ministry.

The final measure will force French banks to publish details of their subsidiaries around the world and will create a French blacklist, to be updated each year, of foreign tax havens.

"It will be established on the basis, not only of signatures of conventions with other countries, but on reality, on the effectiveness of the information given. I will not hesitate to condemn tax havens," Hollande noted.

He called for the bank transparency rules to be applied at EU level.

He also called on all EU states to back "automatic exchange of information" on EU citizens' bank accounts in tax havens closer to home, such as Austria, Luxembourg or Malta.

Luxembourg itself also on Wednesday promised to end bank secrecy on 1 January 2015 in a radical move which risks seeing capital flee its banks, which are worth 22 times the size of the micro-state's economy.

"We are following a global movement ... we are not caving in to German pressure," Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker noted in his state-of-the-nation speech.

Cahuzac aside, the pro-transparency gallop in the EU is being spurred by daily disclosures of tax-dodging by VIPs after the International Federation of Journalists in Washington got hold of details of accounts in tax havens in a development dubbed "Offshoreleaks."

It is also being spurred by last month's Cypriot bailout, in which Germany dictated terms to punish the island for stashing away billions in shady Russian money.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Thursday also proposed the creation of a new "Federal Central Tax Office" to hunt out cheats in Germany's semi-autonomous regions.

His spokesman, Martin Kotthaus, praised Juncker, saying: "It is surely not an easy step for Luxembourg. Something is moving there and we take note of that with great respect and recognition."

Luxembourg's move - in the words of EU anti-fraud commissioner Algirdas Semeta in an email to the Reuters news agency - puts Austria "in a lonely and unsustainable position" of becoming the last EU country to block his directive on tax transparency.

But the Austrian government, which faces elections in September, shows no sign go budging.

"I am a hunter of tax cheats but also the protector of honest savers. It is unjustified to open all the savings accounts of those who have done nothing wrong. That is why I am fighting like a lion for banking secrecy," its finance minister, Maria Fekter told the Oesterreich daily on Monday.

Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the French centre-right opposition party, the UMP, made the same point in a series of press statements following Hollande's speech.

He said the obligation for MPs and officials to disclose financial interests - which is already normal in many European countries - is a "Pandora's box … voyeurism" that risks invading honest people's privacy.

He also lambasted Hollande for "hypocrisy … a show of genuine political, intellectual and moral imposture … loss of credibility … divorce form reality" over his handling of Cahuzac.

According to an Ipsos poll published this week by Le Point magazine, Hollande's approval rating has fallen to 26 percent, the lowest ever score since Ipsos began its surveys in 1996.

The Cahuzac furore has prompted several of Hollande's top men to already reveal details of their financial lives to French media.

On Wednesday, finance minister Pierre Moscovici said he rents his flat in Paris and owns a modest €200,000 apartment in Doubs, in eastern France.

Marisol Touraine, housing minister, said she has €1.4 million, mostly in real estate.

Arnaud Montebourg, industry minister, said he co-owns flats with his mother, has an underground parking space in Dijon, in eastern France, and a €4,000 chair by designer Charles Eames.

Aurelie Filipetti, culture minister said she has a 70-square-metre flat in paris and an old t-shirt used by football star David Beckham.

On the opposition side, Cecile Duflot, Green party shadow housing minister has an old Renault 4 and a Twingo.

Centre-right former PM, Francois Fillon: a home in Sarthe, in western France, worth around €650,000, less than €100,000 in savings and two more-than-10-year-old cars.

For his part, Christian Bourquin, a local politician and a centre-left senator, wrote on his blog that his bank account is usually on zero at the end of each month and that his only worldly possession is "an eight-month-old Catalan donkey."

Greek taxmen may be dodging taxes, too

Tax inspectors in Greece are underpaid, work in poor conditions and 130 of them have bank accounts abroad - possibly for tax evasion, a report by the IMF and EU says.

France in turmoil over tax-dodging minister

The scandal over France's tax-evading budget minister is threatening to engulf Hollande's government, which had promised an "irreproachable republic."

Top five EU states push for tax transparency

France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have agreed new measures to fight tax fraud, putting pressure on Austria and Luxembourg to stop blocking an EU-level law.

Austria attacks UK, as EU finance talks get ugly

Austria has accused the UK of being a haven for money launderers ahead of an EU meeting in Dublin, with Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia's (potential) bailout needs also on the agenda.

News in Brief

  1. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  2. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  3. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  4. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president
  5. Putin: Russia will help Africa without 'conditions'
  6. Almost 200 arrests in Catalonia independence protests
  7. Report: Russian hackers used Iranian cover to attack UK
  8. Next EU economy chief calls for looser budget policies

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  2. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  3. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  4. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  5. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  6. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  7. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK
  8. EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us