Sunday

9th Aug 2020

Juncker seeks to bypass vetoes on tax reform

  • Juncker told France's Liberation newspaper that he has been "weakened" by LuxLeaks (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated he will try and get around member states’ veto powers over fiscal issues when he proposes new laws to clamp down on tax avoidance.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he said he may use a majority vote to get a forthcoming law on the automatic exchange of tax rulings (letters that give companies favourable tax conditions) passed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“I have not excluded that we change the rules using a qualified majority (of member states). I will leave the technical and legal aspects aside now but it would affect aspects of administrative cooperation,” he said.

When he initially presented the idea for the new law last month, he noted it would need unanimous agreement by governments – a requirement that essentially ensures the death of any given measure before it is even proposed.

He maintained a similar tax line just ahead of his commission's swearing-in ceremony, saying that fiscal harmonisation is an "absolute necessity".

He added that the issue should not be subject to the will of those trying to escape paying a tax high enough to respond to "minimum ethical and moral standards".

Juncker made the remarks after being buffeted by fresh revelations, published late on Tuesday, about the extent of Luxembourg’s tax avoidance scheme for multinationals – schemes set up while he was prime minister.

While initially keen to avoid talking to press about the first set of revelations, which came out a few days after he started his job, he has since been more forthcoming - speaking to a series of newspapers ahead of and around the 'LuxLeaks' publications.

The revelations have, by his own admission, “weakened” him.

But his job is not considered to be in danger, as the consensus in the European Parliament - mirrored by silence in the EU capitals - has been that it is more important to move on than to create an institutional crisis by topping the EU commission and its chief.

MEPs - who last month voted against a censure vote on Juncker and who decided not to launch an equiry into the matter - are keen to extract some legislative concessions, however.

Gianni Pitella, head of the centre-left Socialists, on Wednesday said dealing with tax fraud must be an "absolute priority" in the commission's work programme, due to be presented next week.

"If this is not done there will be no consensus or political trust from our group," he added.

And with support in the European Parliament so far clear, Juncker is maintaining a combative line in his interviews.

When asked by FAZ whether he would step down if the commission's competition department found that Luxembourg had breached EU state aid rules with its sweetheart deals for Amazon and Fiat Finance, he was dismissive.

"Has a government member ever stepped down because the EU has found state aid to be inadmissible?", he asked.

He noted that while he doesn't personally think his credibility has been damaged, his public image has "suffered".

He also questioned the timing of the revelations, telling journalists ahead of his oath-taking ceremony on Wednesday that the new leaks are "not coincidence".

Spain pushes for taxation debate at EU summit

It was supposed to be all about investments and Russia, but the issue of tax avoidance is likely to creep onto the EU summit agenda, as a letter from the Spanish Prime Minister shows.

News in Brief

  1. Germany breached rights of Madeleine McCann suspect
  2. EU offers trade perks to Lebanon
  3. Germany charges ex-Audi chiefs on emissions cheating
  4. UK quarantines Belgium, as European infections climb
  5. Bulgaria's Borissov mulls resignation
  6. EU prolongs anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel
  7. Swedish economy contracted less during April to June
  8. EU offers help to Lebanon after port explosion

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU wary of violence in Belarus election
  2. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  3. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'
  4. Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy
  5. Rainbow flag protesters charged by Polish police
  6. An open letter to the EPP on end of Hungary's press freedom
  7. Renew Europe has a plan to combat gender-violence
  8. Why EU beats US on green pandemic recovery

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us