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GUE/NGL MEPs press Commission on corporate tax avoidance in plenary

In a plenary debate yesterday afternoon, GUENGL President Gabi Zimmer directly questioned Jean-Claude Juncker about his attempt to separate his role as the new Commission President from his tenure as Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

The German MEP reminded Juncker that he “took up office with a biography behind him”. She said: “As a former Prime Minister and now Commission President he has to distance himself from these tax policies. He leads a Commission that claims to want to fight tax evasion and fraud.”

She added that “tax evasion on such a scale means we have less money to combat poverty and social exclusion and create jobs”.

In a subsequent debate on tax avoidance, a number of GUE/NGL MEPs also voiced concerns about tax evasion and the role of Juncker.

Portuguese MEP Marisa Matias, the group's coordinator on Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, said: “This debate in plenary looks like a religious meeting. But this is not a question of faith! This is a political issue! Fighting tax evasion and fiscal fraud, ending tax havens, defining taxes for the big multinationals, which of these is the Commission and member states ready to commit to?”

Greek MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis said: “Ordinary working people, pensioners, and SMEs are paying most of the tax in Europe – it may be legal but it is immoral. If we don't want tax avoidance we need some level of tax harmonisation. The Commission investigations are usually time consuming and don't deliver results. We need an independent investigation.”

“It is not a question of whether it is legal or illegal, it's about politics and trust,” said Swedish MEP Malin Björk. “We can't have confidence and trust in Mr Juncker who has pursued unacceptable policies of austerity and privatisation. We need a tax policy based on solidarity which funds solidarity.”

Danish MEP Rina Ronja Kari commented: “Tax avoidance is dirty business. It is not a sign of solidarity. Imagine how much of the crisis would have been avoided if companies had contributed to their communities. Juncker has to take political responsibility for this.”

German MEP Fabio De Masi highlighted that we are now losing a billion euros a year to tax evasion in the EU. He said that “tax harmonisation alone is not enough” and that “we need new treaties”.

Juncker's behaviour was described as “shameless” by Spanish MEP Pablo Iglesias. He said: “Juncker brought in ways to avoid paying tax in his own country, yet now he claims he will tackle the problem.”

Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong said it was imperative that tax avoidance be tackled and that it is unacceptable to have a system where ordinary people are expected to pay their taxes and multinationals are not.

De Jong continued: “The Commission's approach is not satisfactory. National parliaments have no say. Member states are working together in the OECD in Paris – why doesn't the Commission work with them? This would mean it would be based on support and not on diktat.”

Portuguese MEP João Ferreira cited the unfair nature of massive tax hikes for ordinary people amid austerity, impoverishment, and cuts to health spending, social security, and housing. He said: “The current Commission President was responsible for giving tax breaks to hundreds of international firms; this has led to billions of euro in losses of fiscal revenue owed to member states. How can he be considered fit to occupy his current position?”

GUE/NGL Press Contacts:
Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group