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THE ISSUE OF TAX AVOIDANCE AND TAX HAVENS seems to have moved up the public agenda at the same rate as austerity policies have been inflicted on EU citizens. While governments insist that they have no money to sustain decent social security systems and cut public sector jobs it has become apparent that €1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion euros) of EU tax revenue is lost to tax evasion every year. As well as UK Prime Minister Cameron’s attempt to enforce transparency among British ‘crown dependencies’ who live off the provision of offshore bank accounts to foreign depositors, EU finance ministers are to talk to European tax havens like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino while the Council of Ministers got all Member States to agree to exchange information on the income, including dividends and capital gains, of account-holders in their banks. Both unions and MEPs were less than impressed by the ministers’ promises however. The Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament pointed to Austria and Luxembourg as backsliders among Member States as even Commission President Barroso had said that ‘The wording leaves open the possibility that the two countries could still back out’. The parliament adopted a report on ‘Fight against Tax Fraud, Tax Evasion and Tax Havens’ and passed two resolutions that recommended a target of halving the trillion euro tax gap by 2020, the drawing up of both a definition of ‘tax haven’, and a list of offenders, and the withdrawal of EU assistance and public contracts to any company that breaches tax standards. It is worth noting, though, that these are ‘non-legislative’ resolutons. The ETUC drew attention to two EU directives on taxation of interest and harmonising corporate tax rates which have got stuck in the Council of Ministers. According to Bernardette Ségol, ETUC General Secretary: ‘Today it is clear to all that bank secrecy, offshore centres and tax havens steal revenue needed to finance our social welfare’ and hoped that ‘the European Parliament’s report will not be ignored by EU governments’.
|EUROPEAN TRADE UNION FEDERATION Industriall, which was formed following a merger between the federations representing metal workers, miners, chemical and textile workers, recently signed a breakthrough agreement on the employment of young people with French-based aerospace firm Safran. The company employs 62,500 people worldwide and made sales of €13.6 billion last year. This year they aim to recruit 7,000 new employees, 4,500 in Europe, of whom about half will be young workers. The three-year agreement commits the company to providing 2,000 apprenticeships or traineeships in each of the next three years. They will also sponsor their ‘professional integration’ through in-service training, mentoring and links with universities and schools. Both the management and union leadership believe that tailored training combined with practical experience is the way to integrate young people into working life. Each national subsidiary will have an action plan and best practice in any particular country will be copied by others. The whole project will be overseen by a monitoring board which will maintain quantitative and qualitative statistics.Both signatories highlighted youth unemployment in the EU in their comments on the deal. Jean-Luc Bérard, Safran Vice President for Human Resources, emphasised that ‘At Safran, we are fully aware of our social responsibilities, especially with youth unemployment on the rise’. IndustriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary Bart Samyn agreed: ‘The integration of 6,000 young people in the Safran Group over this period through the creation of these new employment and training possibilities is welcome news indeed and an encouraging signal, particularly when we see the impact of the economic crisis and the high level of youth unemployment in Europe today’.||
DGS Samyn and VP Bérard sign the deal