MEPs

MEPs call for tax haven blacklist, patent box rules, CCCTB and more | European Parliament Newsroom

Parliament’s recommendations for making corporate taxation fairer and clearer were voted on Wednesday. MEPs call for an EU register of beneficial owners of companies, a tax havens blacklist, sanctions against non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, action against abuse of “patent box” regimes, a code of conduct for banks and tax advisors, tax good governance rules in EU trade agreements, a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) and a withholding tax on profits leaving the EU.

The recommendations, prepared  by co-rapporteurs Michael Theurer (ALDE, DE) and Jeppe Kofod (S&D, DK) on behalf of Parliament’s Special Committee on Tax Rulings II, were approved by  514 votes to 68, with 125 abstentions.

“Tax dumping is done at the expense of the general public and small- and medium-sized companies, which are the backbone of our European economy. In a fair tax system, multinational companies also pay their share and they should do so where they add value and make their profits”, said Mr Theurer.

“With this report, Europe is stepping up to the plate on the fight against tax evasion and tax havens. We’re setting clear demands for increased accountability, effective deterrents in the form of markedly increased sanctions for tax havens, banks, tax advisors and companies, and we’re calling for increased European and international cooperation on this hugely problematic issue”, said Mr Kofod.

Tax havens blacklist

MEPs welcome EU Commission plans to draw up a common EU blacklist of non-cooperative jurisdictions. They call for a common definition of “uncooperative jurisdictions” and say that the blacklisting procedure should include an “escalation” provision to allow for dialogue with the jurisdiction in which shortcomings have been identified before deciding to blacklist it.

Parliament also advocates sanctions against uncooperative jurisdictions, including a possibility to review and even suspend free trade agreements and prohibiting access to EU funds. They add that sanctions should also be put in place for companies, banks, accountancy and law firms and tax advisors proven to be involved in illegal, harmful or wrongful activities with those jurisdictions.

Members also call on EU member states to draw up sanctions against company managers involved in tax evasion and make it possible to revoke business licences in cases where professionals are involved in illegal tax planning and evasion schemes. The EU Commission should also explore the possibility of introducing financial liability for tax advisors engaged in unlawful tax practices, they add.

Misuse of “patent box” regimes

The report also criticises “patent box” tax regimes for intellectual property revenues. These “have not proven to be effective in fostering innovation. Regrettably, they are used by multinational companies for profit shifting through aggressive tax planning schemes (…) which leads to a race to the bottom. To prohibit misuse and to make sure they are linked to genuine economic activity, the Commission should propose binding union legislation”, it says.

Other recommendations

MEPs also call for:

  • guidelines to better define what is allowed with regard to transfer pricing,
  • better protection for whistle-blowers,
  • an EU Commission proposal before the end of 2016 for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB),
  • an EU-wide withholding tax, to be collected by member states, to ensure that profits made in the EU are taxed at least once before leaving it,
  • a code of conduct for banks, tax advisors, law- and accounting firms,
  • a new EU Tax Policy Coherence and Coordination Centre to be created within the EU Commission, and
  • a global register of all assets held by individuals, companies and entities,  such as trusts and foundations, to which tax authorities would have full access.

Procedure:  Non legislative resolution

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MEPs back plans to pool policing of EU external borders|European Parliament – Newsroom

Plans to set up an EU border control system, bringing together the EU’s Frontex border agency and national border management authorities, were endorsed by MEPs on Wednesday. Under these plans, national authorities will still manage their borders on a day-to-day basis but, if their EU external borders are under pressure, they will be able to seek help from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG), to rapidly deploy pooled border guard teams to those borders.

“The European Border and Coast Guard Regulation will ensure that the EU external borders are safer and better managed. This is not a silver bullet that can solve the migration crisis that the EU is facing today or fully restore trust in the Schengen area, but it is very much needed first step”, said rapporteur Artis Pabriks (EPP, LV).

The new rules were approved by 483 votes to 181 with 48 abstentions.

Launching rapid border interventions in crisis situations

In cases where a member state faces increased pressures on its external border, such as disproportionate migratory pressure or cross-border crime, rapid border intervention teams could be temporarily deployed either at the request of an EU member state or by Council decision:

  • following a member state request, an operational plan would be agreed with the EBCG, which would deploy, within five working days, the necessary staff and provide technical equipment,
  • in cases where a member state does not take up the measures proposed by the EBCG or migratory pressure is jeopardising the functioning of the Schengen border check-free area, the EU Commission may present the Council with a proposal to act. The Council will then decide on the need to send border intervention teams. The operational plan should be agreed by the member state concerned and the EBCG before deployment can take place, and
  • if a member state opposes a Council decision to provide assistance, other EU countries may temporarily reintroduce internal border checks.

Return operations

The EBCG will play a greater role than today’s Frontex agency in returning migrants to their country of origin, but only where executing decisions that have already been taken by national authorities. Return provisions have been further strengthened by additional fundamental rights safeguards. The EBCG agency will not be involved in returns between non-EU countries.

Pool of guards and technical equipment pool

The EBCG will not have its own border guards but will be able to call on a rapid reaction pool of 1,500 border guards to be nominated by member states.

MEPs ensured that the teams of border guards in the Rapid Reaction Pool will have the equipment they need, by inserting a requirement to make equipment available from the rapid reaction pool no later than 10 days after the operational plan is agreed.

Accountability and information

The EBCG will be accountable to the European Parliament and Council. Parliament will be kept informed through regular reporting and access to information for MEPs.

Cooperation with other agencies

The mandates of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be aligned with that of the EBCG, so as to enable all three to coordinate their operations at sea and share information.

They are empowered to support national authorities performing coastguard tasks at national and EU levels and where appropriate at international level.

Next steps

The text voted by the European Parliament will be sent to the Council for approval. The legislation is expected to enter into force this autumn.

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MEPs urge EU countries to use €1.3bn budget refund to honour refugee aid pledge| European Parliament – Newsrooms

EU member states should use a €1.349 billion EU budget refund for 2015 to honour their pledges to contribute to two EU trust funds set up to tackle the refugee crisis, urge MEPs in a resolution voted on Wednesday. Parliament approved a Commission proposal to amend the EU’s 2016 budge in order to include a positive balance from 2015. This balance is to be refunded in the form of a reduction in member states’ contributions.

“I would like to stress that this amending budget will result in a €1.349 billion reduction in national contributions to the EU budget. I consider that it is of utmost importance that member states use the opportunity of such an unexpected refund to honour their pledges in relation to the refugee crisis and to match the EU contribution to the two dedicated trust funds. I would like to urge them to do so”, said rapporteur José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT).

MEPs note “with concern” that in spring 2016, “member states have only contributed €82 million to the Africa Trust Fund and €69 million to the Madad Trust Fund on the Syrian crisis, while the Union’s contributions stand at €1.8 billion and more than €500 million respectively”, says the report.

The €1.349bn positive balance is due to the EU receiving more revenue than expected (mainly from exchange rates differences and from competition fines paid towards the end of 2015) and from minor under-implementation of the expenditure.

The report was approved by 591 votes to 68, with 44 abstentions.

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Cybersecurity: MEPs back rules to help vital services resist online threats| European Parliament – Newsroom

Firms supplying essential services, e.g. for energy, transport, banking and health, or digital ones, such as search engines and cloud services, will have to improve their ability to withstand cyber-attacks under the first EU-wide rules on cybersecurity, approved by MEPs on Wednesday.

Setting common cybersecurity standards and stepping up cooperation among EU countries will help firms to protect themselves, and also help prevent attacks on EU countries’ interconnected infrastructure, say MEPs.

“Cybersecurity incidents very often have a cross-border element and therefore concern more than one EU member state. Fragmentary cybersecurity protection makes us all vulnerable and poses a big security risk for Europe as a whole. This directive will establish a common level of network and information security and enhance cooperation among EU member states, which will help prevent cyberattacks on Europe’s important interconnected infrastructures in the future”, said Parliament’s rapporteur Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE).

The EU network and information security (NIS) directive “is also one of the first legislative frameworks that applies to platforms. In line with the Digital Single Market strategy, it establishes harmonised requirements for platforms and ensures that they can expect similar rules wherever they operate in the EU. This is a huge success and a big first step to establishing a comprehensive regulatory framework for platforms in the EU”, he added.

EU countries to list “essential service” firms

The new EU law lays down security and reporting obligations for “operators of essential services” in sectors such as energy, transport, health, banking and drinking water supply.  EU member states will have to identify entities in these fields using specific criteria, e.g. whether the service is critical for society and the economy and whether an incident would have significant disruptive effects on the provision of that service.

 

Some digital service providers – online marketplaces, search engines and cloud services – will also have to take measures to ensure the safety of their infrastructure and will have to report major incidents to national authorities. The security and notification requirements are, however, lighter for these providers. Micro- and small digital companies will be exempted from these requirements.

EU-wide cooperation mechanisms

The new rules provide for a strategic “cooperation group” to exchange information and assist member states in cybersecurity capacity-building. Each EU country will be required to adopt a national NIS strategy.

Member states will also have to set up a network of Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) to handle incidents and risks, discuss cross-border security issues and identify coordinated responses. The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) will play a key role in implementing the directive, particularly in relation to cooperation. The need to respect data protection rules is reiterated throughout the directive.

Next steps

The NIS directive will soon be published in the EU Official Journal and will enter into force on the twentieth day after publication. Member states will then have 21 months to transpose the directive into their national laws and six additional months to identify operators of essential services.

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Energy efficiency: MEPs to vote on binding new rules for labelling | European Parliament – Press release

New rules plan to make it easier for consumers to buy energy-efficient household appliances by simplifying the current labelling system. They will be debated by MEPs on Monday 4 July and voted on Wednesday. The draft text calls for replacing the current scale with a far more transparent A to G system of presenting energy efficiency. Watch our video to find out more.

The proposal calls for clear and legible labels showing the product model’s energy efficiency class and its absolute consumption in kWh over a given period. The new rules are expected to lead to additional energy savings equal to the annual energy consumption of all three Baltic countries (200 TWh per year in 2030).

The EU wants to improve energy efficiency by at least 27% by 2030. Cutting demand will decrease CO2 emissions and reduce dependence on dominant energy suppliers such as Russia.

Following it live

The debate takes place on Monday 4 July at about 19.30 CET and the vote on Wednesday 6 July after 12.30 CET. Follow it live on our website.

Next steps

After both Parliament and the Council have adopted a position, the two institutions can start negotiations. The new rules can only enter into force if they reach an agreement.

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MEPs call for swift Brexit to end uncertainty and for deep EU reform | European Commission – Daily News

The UK must respect the wish of a majority of its citizens, entirely, fully and as soon as possible, by officially withdrawing from the EU before any new relationship arrangements can be made, says the European Parliament in a resolution voted after an extraordinary plenary debate on Tuesday. MEPs also stress the urgent need for reforms to ensure that the EU lives up to its citizens’ expectations.

After a debate between Parliament’s political group leaders, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Dutch minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, representing the EU Council’s rotating presidency, Parliament voted a resolution on ways forward after the UK referendum on 23 June. The text was approved by 395 to 200, with 71 abstentions.

Parliament calls upon the UK government to respect its people’s democratic decision via a swift and coherent implementation of the withdrawal procedure, i.e. by activating Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union so as to allow withdrawal negotiations to start as soon as possible.

To prevent damaging uncertainty for everyone and to protect the Union’s integrity, the UK Prime Minister should notify the outcome of the referendum to the European Council of 28-29 June, in order to launch the withdrawal procedure and negotiations as soon as possible, urge MEPs.

MEPs recall that the European Parliament’s consent for the withdrawal agreement and any future relationship is required under the Treaties, and that it must be fully involved at all stages of the various procedures.

Cancel UK’s EU Council presidency in 2017

Parliament also calls on the Council to change the order of its presidencies to prevent the withdrawal process from jeopardising the management of the day-to-day business of the Union. The UK was set to take on the presidency in the second half of 2017. Parliament will also change its internal organisation to reflect UK citizens’ will to withdraw from the EU.

Future of the EU

The current challenges demand reform to make the Union “better and more democratic”, and to “deliver what citizens expect”, MEPs insist. “While some Member States may choose to integrate more slowly or to a lesser extent, the core of the EU must be reinforced and à la carte solutions should be avoided” , says the text.

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Heated debate over state of Greece’s adjustment programme | European Parliament Newsroom

In a heated debate about the state of play of the Greek macro-economic adjustment programme, the centre-left parties S&D, GUE, Greens/EFA, but also the conservative ECR, warned Greece’s creditors and the IMF not to impose more reforms on the country and advocated debt relief. Some MEPs attacked the IMF for being too tough on reforms whereas the centre-right EPP underlined the need for them.

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre MOSCOVICI gave a positive debrief after Monday’s Eurogroup meeting, saying that Greece is expected to return to growth in the second half of 2016 and to a deficit of less than 3% in 2017. He expects an agreement at the Eurogroup’s 24 May meeting on the reforms and the contingency mechanism (to assure the primary surplus of 3.5% by 2018), so that the disbursements under the programme can continue. The second step would then be to start talks about debt relief, repeating that nominal haircuts are “a red line”.

Click on the hyperlinks below to review the full statement of the first speakers on behalf of the political groups:

EPP leader Manfred WEBER (DE) criticised Prime Minister Tsipras. Referring to the 0.7% growth figure in 2014, he blamed the Tsipras government for slipping below zero growth in 2015 and “harming the country”. He took Ireland as an example of a programme country that recovered as a result of reforms.

S&D leader Gianni PITTELLA (IT) said that the problem is not Athens, but the IMF with its policy of preventive austerity. “If they continue to sabotage an agreement, we have to go it alone”, he said.

ECR’s Notis MARIAS labelled the Greek programme as “violent and leading to a social Armageddon”.

ALDE’s Sylvie GOULARD (FR) said too many issues are being pushed toward 2018 because of the UK’s EU referendum and elections in other countries and that it bears the risk of losing control over the adjustment programmes.

GUE’s Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS criticised EPP leader Manfred Weber for his attack on Mr Tsipras: “He did not create the Greek debt. The Greek people voted for him and want to keep him as their Prime Minister.”

Green leader Philippe LAMBERTS (BE) said he did not share the optimism after yesterday’s euro group meeting on Greece: “The austerity of its creditors and the IMF is socially unacceptable. That’s too high a price to pay.”

Steven WOOLFE (EFDD, UK) blamed the Eurogroup and the IMF for high unemployment and suicide rates in Greece and encouraged the Greeks “to leave the EU like the UK will do on 23 June.”

Marcel DE GRAAFF (ENF, NL) said Greece is bankrupt and urged “to close the tap, to scrap the euro and return to the drachma”. 

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MEPs voice grave concerns about Nord Stream 2 project | European Parliament Newsroom

The Nord Stream 2 project goes against the objectives of the Energy Union, harms solidarity among EU member states and should be considered from a geopolitical as well as an economic perspective, said MEPs in a debate with Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete on Monday evening in Strasbourg.

Several MEPs stressed that Nord Stream 2 could not further the aim of diversification, but on the contrary would increase dependency on one supplier. Some argued that the project is not justified economically or in climate action terms and instead reflects geopolitical motives. Most MEPs asked the European Commission to put an end to the Nord Stream 2 project as soon as possible.

Commissioner Cañete said that the project “would likely change the current setup of the gas market” and that the Commission had contacted the German authorities to get all the necessary facts to assess the project. Mr Cañete stressed that the EU law must be applied and obeyed in all aspects of the Nord Stream 2 project and that “all projects should align to Energy Union policies”.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, run by a consortium led by the Russian gas company Gazprom, aims to build new pipelines that would double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream gas connection from Russia to northern Germany under the Baltic Sea. The new pipelines could be completed by the end of 2019.

You can replay the plenary debate here

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EU PNR: useful against terrorism, but privacy and proportionality worries remain | European Parliament Newsroom

Many MEPs speaking in Wednesday’s debate were convinced that the proposed EU law on the use of Passenger Name Records (PNR) will be a useful tool in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. But others voiced serious concerns about the adequacy of privacy safeguards and the proportionality of massive collection of data.

The EU PNR directive, which Parliament will put to a plenary vote on Thursday, will oblige airlines to hand EU countries their passengers’ data for all flights from a third country to the EU and vice versa.

According to the provisional agreement reached by Parliament and Council negotiators in December 2015, the data will be retained for five years, although after six months the information that may lead to the identification of the individual will be rendered invisible.

You can watch replays of the debate:

Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK), Parliament´s rapporteur

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on behalf of the Council

Commissioner Avramopoulos

Axel Voss (EPP, DE)

Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE)

Helga Stevens (ECR, BE)

Sophia In ´t Veld (ALDE, NL)

Cornelia Ernst (GUE, DE)

Jan Albrecht (Greens, DE)

Beatrix Von Storch (EFDD, DE)

Gilles Lebreton (ENF, FR)

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MEPs welcome “robust” new EU data protection rules ahead of final vote | European Parliament Newsroom

A large majority of MEPs welcomed the new EU data protection rules in Wednesday’s debate, ahead of the final plenary vote on Thursday. The revised rules aim to give citizens back control of their personal data and to create a high, uniform level of data protection across the EU fit for the digital era. The reform also sets minimum standards on use of data for policing and judicial purposes.

Parliament and Council negotiators reached a provisional agreement on the data protection package, consisting of a regulation governing data transfers in general and a directive on transfers for criminal law enforcement purposes, last December. The Civil Liberties Committee endorsed the new rules on Tuesday. The final vote in plenary session, which will mark the last step in the legislative procedure, takes place on Thursday.

Replay statements by

Jan Philipp Albrecht, (Greens, DE), EP rapporteur on the regulation

Marju Lauristin, (S&D, ET), EP rapporteur on the directive

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, for the Dutch Presidency of the Council

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

Axel Voss, (EPP, DE)

Claude Moraes, (S&D, UK)

Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK)

Sophie In’t Veld (ALDE, NL)

Cornelia Ernst (GUE, DE)

Judith Sargentini (Greens, NL)

Gerard Batten (EFDD, UK)

Gianluca Buonanno (ENF, IT)

#dataprotection

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