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ISSUE 70 page 5

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European Parliament enquiry into Luxleaks tax deals downgraded by big parties

 THE CONTINUING RUMBLINGS OVER THE ISSUES OF TAX SECRECY, tax havens and tax deals between major companies and EU governments grew louder when 28,000 pages of leaked documents from Luxembourg were quoted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in November.  The leaks seemed to show that over 300 firms had   negotiated secret agreements that saved them billions of euros in tax in return for channelling funds through the tiny Grand Duchy. Furthermore the Prime Minister of the country during the period in question was none other than Jean-Claude Juncker, the new President of the European Commission. This was enough for the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU), who count tax inspectors among their members, to call for these companies, which include Deutsche Bank and Pepsi, to be denied EU funds, state aid or public contracts and for a European Parliament enquiry. Their prayers seemed to have been answered when the Greens/EFA parliamentary group mustered 194 MEPs to sign a petition calling for a committee of enquiry into the tax rulings now dubbed ‘Luxleaks’. The next step was for the proposal to be considered by the Conference of Presidents

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which consists of the leaders of each of the parliamentary party groups. However the majority of these leaders had other ideas. They called for a ‘special enquiry’ to be initiated which has a lower status and cannot access national documents, only European ones. The legal service of the parliament recommended the demand for a committee of enquiry be refused on the grounds that its aims were not specific enough but the Green group characterised this as legal quibbling. ‘The legal service could have used this argument to refuse to open any committee of inquiry’ said the Belgian Green MEP Philippe Lamberts. He blamed the coalition of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats and centre-right EPP groups, which put Mr. Juncker in office in the first place, for blocking their proposal. The Greens pledged, nonetheless, to co-operate with the special committee. The president of the parliament and Socialist Martin Schulz believes that ‘a special committee would have more powers and would be better suited to deal with this subject’ and other party leaders want the inquiry to go further than Luxleaks: ‘We want to shed light on all member states’ tax rulings and put pressure on them to end unfair tax practices, as well as combat tax evasion’ stressed EPP chief Manfred Weber.    

The Greens consult President Juncker as radical left MEPs make their feelings known

 

 




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