The pot has just called the kettle black. Belgium has included Luxembourg on its blacklist of tax havens. As European Member States usually prefer to compete on tax among themselves it is quite rare to see one tax haven denouncing another one. Over the past decade, Paris, London and Brussels were all too happy to maintain the status quo in Europe and not make decisive reforms on the fight against tax dodging.
It took the massive scandal of Lux Leaks in November 2014 to apparently wake them up and it took the perseverance of the Greens in the European Parliament to create a special committee to investigate the tricks used by some well-known corporations to pay close to zero taxes in Europe.
The Greens have invested time and energy to make this Special Committee on tax work, calling on the European Commission and member states to disclose relevant documents, suggesting visits to well-known tax havens like the City of London, Switzerland or Belgium and proposing experts to enlighten the European Parliament.
After seven months of work, the Greens welcomed last week the draft report produced by the committee but called for its recommendations to be strengthened in order to fight corporate tax avoidance head-on. The Greens are calling for greater public transparency - of sweetheart tax deals and of where the corporates declare their profits and pay their taxes - because we believe European citizens have a right to know if the multinationals they buy from pay their fair share of taxes. We are also calling for greater harmonisation of European tax rules - including a common corporate tax base and a minimum corporate tax rate - to stop the endless harmful tax war between European countries.
But more importantly, we are disappointed with the behaviour of the European Commission and the Member States who did not provide key documents for completing our investigations. The Council has not provided any meaningful documents about member states' secretive tax discussions at the European level. Meanwhile, the Commission is dragging its feet on some essential documents, arguing European Parliamentarians cannot guarantee their confidentiality. Its offer to only 'consult' these documents cannot be considered a credible alternative.
As Greens, we believe transparency is the best solution to prevent suspicion of policy-making favouring the interest of a privileged few over European citizens. Such transparency on where corporations pay their taxes should be the rule and for EU institutions there should be openness on what tax reforms they promote.
Denying the European Parliament the right to receive key documents is simply unacceptable and disrespectful of the only institution with elected European representatives. This is what the Greens will unanimously tell Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for taxation, when they visit the European Parliament today.