Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Germany proposes EU petrol tax to pay for refugees

  • The EU petrol tax was discussed at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels last week (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has proposed an EU-wide tax on petrol to cover the costs of the refugee crisis.

"If the funds in the national budgets and the European budget are not sufficient, then let us agree for instance on collecting a levy on every litre of petrol at a specific amount," he said in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published on Saturday (16 January).

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The German minister, a key ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, said the funds were necessary to strengthen the bloc’s external borders.

"We have to secure Schengen's external borders now. The solution of these problems must not fail because of a lack of funds,” he pointed out.

He did not give details on how the tax would be collected, or if Brussels would be in charge of the money.

However, he said that if any EU members objected to paying more into EU funds for refugee-related European policies, Germany should go ahead with a “coalition of the willing”.

“The problem must be solved at a European level,” he said, but added that things were moving too slowly in Europe.

“Otherwise, it won't just be Germany that suffers the consequences, as some seem to think, but our neighbours will be massively affected too, as will the Balkans, and all the way down to Greece,” Schaeuble warned.

Finland’s finance minister Alexander Stubb has already said he is open to the idea, but noted that it would be problematic for Finland to introduce it.

“For two reasons, basically: first, because no one wants to raise tax rates right now and second, because tax issues are largely the prerogative of individual nations at present. This would be a new kind of EU tax,” Stubb told the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle.

Stubb added that the EU petrol tax was briefly discussed at the meeting of finance ministers in Brussels last week.

Meanwhile, Schaeuble’s idea drew criticism in Germany, which had a surprise budget surplus of €12.1 billion in 2015 and will use it to pay for integrating refugees.

“I’m strictly against any tax increase in light of the good budgetary situation,” Julia Kloeckner, the top Christian Democratic (CDU) candidate in the March state election in Rhineland-Palatinate, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“We Social Democrats want to hold society together instead of dividing it with a new refugee toll a la Schaeuble,” SPD deputy Ralf Stegner told Reuters.

Bavarian threats

Over the weekend, Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer again threatened to take Merkel's government to court over its welcoming policy towards refugees.

Seehofer, whose state is the main entry point for the migrants, had made similar threats before, only to back down at the last minute.

He said on Saturday he would send the federal government a written request within two weeks to restore “orderly conditions” at the nation's borders.

Seehofer, who is leader of Merkel’s sister party the CSU, said if the federal government failed to do that, he would have to file a suit at the constitutional court.

More than 1 million migrants arrived in Germany last year.

Bavaria’s finance minister, Markus Soeder, told Der Spiegel that Merkel's open-door refugee policy had not been democratically legitimised and added that parliament should vote on the issue.

Merkel was also criticised by his junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said on Saturday: “We have to get from a chaotic to an orderly immigration.”

He warned that if EU policies failed to bring down the numbers of new arrivals down by the spring, then "we're moving towards numbers that become difficult".

Syrians tell Cologne: 'We're against sexism'

Syrians and Germans held a protest on Saturday to show their aversion to sexism, but also to racism. “We experience sexism from men of all nationalities," one woman said.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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