Thursday

23rd Jan 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 join 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.

Croatia's EU presidency optimism beset by problems

Croatia wants to focus on economic development, connectivity, internal and external security and a globally more assertive Europe over its six-month presidency - but Brexit and the next budget negotiations may put pay to that.

News in Brief

  1. UK watchdog unveils online child-privacy standards
  2. Alleged 'bully' nominated for EESC presidency
  3. Greens/EFA fail to agree on accepting Catalan MEPs
  4. MEPs approve over 55 gas projects for EU funding
  5. Italy deputy PM Di Maio quits as Five Star party leader
  6. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  7. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  8. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us