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Third front opened against tax dodgers by EU Council
FOLLOWING THE SETTING UP OF A Special Tax Committee by the EU parliament and its proposed amendment of the Shareholders’ Rights directive (see last issue) the Council of Ministers in the form of the ‘ECOFIN’ committee has got in on the act by agreeing a deal on exchanging information on tax rulings made by individual countries. Under pressure from scandals such as ‘Luxleaks’ in which hundreds of special tax deals between multi-national companies and the government of Luxembourg were published, the ministers were praised for their ‘exceptionally fast adoption’ of the measure by Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. The new directive will ensure that EU Member States exchange information every three months on any special arrangements that they have offered firms on tax. It is hoped that this will prevent companies such as Fiat and Starbucks, recently ordered by the Commission to pay back taxes of €30 million each, playing off one government against another to pay the smallest amount possible.
The European parliament was less enthusiastic than the Commission, whose original proposal was modified by the Council of Ministers to reach agreement. Among the criticisms reported by Markus Ferber MEP were the limit on the scope of the new law to ‘cross-border’ deals only, the lack of powers for EU authorities to access information on them and the cut-off point of five years for the exchange of past deals. Molly Scott Cato, a UK Green MEP, said, ‘EU finance ministers have taken a baby step towards providing proper transparency on these controversial “'tax rulings” but true transparency on corporate tax policy in Europe remains elusive’. The report will be amended and submitted to a vote in the full Parliament in November.
|Calls for EU body to fix gender balance|
THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE (EESC) may not be a name that trips off the tongue of the average EU citizen but as it has a right to be consulted on relevant legislation by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, and has a budget of €130 million, it is not without importance in the Brussels power network. Composed of three equal groups representing business, trade unions and civil society organisations it gives its opinion on matters such as the ‘EU strategy in the Alpine Region’ and ‘The situation of women in the Euro-Mediterranean region’. Over the course of a year it produces about 170 such advisory documents. It might seem strange then that a body which has consistently called for a better gender balance among EU decision-makers had only 23% female membership. As a new round of appointments was to be made in September for its new five-year term the European Women’s Lobby, 48 MEPs and the president of the EESC Human Rights Committee, Madi Sharma, sought to put pressure on the EU authorities by means of a petition calling for a 40% female representation. However the new list, appointed by the Member States and confirmed by the Council of Ministers showed only an increase to 28%; the new president, from the trade union group, the two vice-presidents and the three group presidents are all men. The delegations from Malta, Cyprus and Portugal include no women. The age range is also skewed towards older people, with a high percentage over the age of sixty at a time when young people are feeling the sharp end of the economic crisis. According to Ms. Sharma the EU’s ‘house of civil society’ cannot ‘be a fully functioning democracy with such an imbalance’ and ‘our citizens will eventually question the validity of the decision-making process’.
Scales titled against women at EESC?