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Future of Europe debate: Vice-President Šefčovič and Slovak Prime Minister Fico meet citizens in Košice

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87219e2e-078c-4655-95c4-a9a67ca37166_295x221European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico are joining forces to hold a Citizens' Dialogue in Košice – European Capital of Culture 2013. The event will be held at the Kunsthalle on Saturday 5 October, involving hundreds of citizens from all walks of life.

This unique conversation between Europe, national politics and citizens is the 32nd in a series of Citizens' Dialogues that European Commissioners are holding across the European Union. These respond to President Barroso's call for "a broad debate all over Europe. A debate of truly European dimensions." Each Dialogue is centred on three themes: Europe's way out of the economic crisis, citizens' rights and the future of Europe.

Vice-President Šefčovič said: "Three in four Slovaks say they feel like EU citizens, but fewer know what this means. That is why I am delighted – as part of the European Year of Citizens – to debate the current state of the EU, what direction we are going in and people's EU rights with Slovak citizens in Košice. I believe that the more Slovak citizens are informed, the more they can engage with the EU and help to shape its future."

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, three quarters (76%) of Slovaks want to know more about their rights as an EU citizen. Moreover, whilst the same percentage (76%) of Slovaks feel that they are a citizen of the EU, only six in ten (59%) actually know what this means. This is why the European Commission has made 2013 the European Year of Citizens, with the Citizens' Dialogues at the heart of this year.

The debate will take place on Saturday 5 October from 16:00-18:00 at the Kunsthalle, Rumanova 1, Košice. It will be moderated by TV-news anchor Ľubomír Bajaník from Slovak public broadcaster RTVS.

The event can be followed live via webstream. Citizens from all over Europe can participate via Twitter by using the hash tag #EUDeb8. Citizens can also submit comments on debate topics using Facebook.

Background

What are the Citizens' Dialogues about?

In January, the European Commission kicked off the European Year of Citizens (IP/13/2), a year dedicated to citizens and their rights. Throughout this and next year, members of the European Commission, together with national and local politicians and members of the European Parliament will hold debates with citizens about their expectations for the future in Citizens' Dialogues all over the EU.

Recent Dialogues were hosted by Vice-Presidents Rehn and Kallas in Tallinn (Estonia), by Vice-President Reding in Trieste (Italy) and Helsinki (Finland) and by Commissioner Andor in Györ (Hungary). Upcoming Dialogues include Vice-President Reding in Stockholm (Sweden), President Barroso in Liège (Belgium) and Commissioner Piebalgs in Riga (Latvia). Dialogues will continue throughout 2013, into the first few months of 2014 – with European, national and local politicians engaging in a debate with citizens from all walks of life. Follow all the Dialogues here.

Why is the Commission doing this now?

Because Europe is at a crossroads. The future of Europe is the talk of the town – with many voices talking about moving towards political union a Federation of Nation States or a United States of Europe. The coming months and years will be decisive for the future course of the European Union. Further European integration must go hand in hand with strengthening the Union's democratic legitimacy. Giving citizens a direct voice in this debate is therefore more important than ever.

What will be the outcome of the Dialogues?

The feedback from citizens during the Dialogues will help guide the Commission as it draws up plans for a future reform of the EU. One of the main purposes of the Dialogues will also be to prepare the ground for the 2014 European elections.

On 8 May 2013 the European Commission published its second EU Citizenship Report, which puts forward 12 new concrete measures to solve problems citizens still have (IP/13/410 and MEMO/13/409). The Citizens' Report is the Commission's answer to both a major online consultation held from May 2012 (IP/12/461) and the questions and suggestions raised during the Citizens' Dialogues.

Further information on the Košice Dialogue.

Debates with citizens on the Future of Europe.

European Year of Citizens.

Corporate tax rules

Big-tech companies to be given historical changes to their international tax agreements

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Recently, some of the richest landmarks and countries of the world, have come to an agreement concerning the closing of international tax loopholes that have been endorsed by the biggest multinational corporations. Some of these tech companies have the largest share prices within the stock market, such as Apple, Amazon, Google and so on.

While tech taxation has long been an issue that international governments have had to agree on between themselves, betting too shares similar problems, especially due to its increase in popularity and allowed legalisation globally. Here we have provided a comparison of new betting sites which follow through on the correct taxation laws and legalities necessary for international usage.

During the G7 summit- which our last reports spoke about the topic of Brexit and trade deals, representatives of the United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and Japan, came to a unified agreement to support the global corporation tax rates of at least 15%. It was in agreement that this should happen as these corporations should pay taxes where their businesses are in operation, and to the land they operate in. Tax evasion has long been propagated using initiatives and loopholes found by corporation entities, this unanimous decision will put a stop to hold tech companies responsible.

This decision is believed to be years in the making, and the G7 summits have long wanted to reach an agreement to make history and reform the global taxation system for the rising innovation and digital age that is on the horizon. Making companies like Apple, Amazon and Google take accountability, will keep taxation in check for what is estimated to be the surge of their developments and involvement overseas. Rishi Sunak, the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, has mentioned that we are in the economic crisis of the pandemic, companies need to hold their weight and contribute to the reformation of the global economy. Reformed taxation is a step forward in achieving that. Global tech companies such as Amazon and Apple have massively increased in shareholder prices for each quarter after the major drop last year, making tech one of the most sustainable sectors to obtain taxes from. Of course, not all would agree on such comments, being that taxation loopholes have long been a thing and issue of the past.

The deal agreed upon will put massive pressure on other countries during the G20 meeting that is to occur in July. Having a base of agreement from the parties of G7 makes it very likely that other countries will come to an agreement, with nations such as Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico etc. who are to be in attendance. Lower tax haven countries like Ireland will expect lower rates with a minimum of 12.5% where others may be higher depending. It was expected that the 15 percent tax rate would be higher at the level of at least 21%, and countries who agree with this believe that a base level of 15% should be set with possibilities of more ambitious rates depending on destination and region that multinational companies operate and pay taxes from.

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Corporate tax rules

Big countries' tax deal to reveal rift in Europe

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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager wearing a protective mask leaves the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

A global deal on corporate tax looks set to bring to a climax a deep-seated European Union battle, pitting large members Germany, France and Italy against Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Read more.

Although the smaller EU partners at the centre of a years-long struggle over their favourable tax regimes, welcomed the Group of Seven deal on June 5. for a minimum corporate rate of at least 15%, some critics predict trouble implementing it.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, has long struggled to get agreement within the bloc on a common approach to taxation, a freedom which has been jealously guarded by all its 27 members, both large and small.

"The traditional EU tax holdouts are trying to keep the framework as flexible as possible so that they can continue to do business more or less as usual," Rebecca Christie of Brussels-based think tank Bruegel said.

Paschal Donohoe, Ireland's finance minister and president of the Eurogroup of his euro zone peers, gave the G7 wealthy countries' deal, which needs to be approved by a much wider group, a lukewarm welcome.

"Any agreement will have to meet the needs of small and large countries," he said on Twitter, pointing to the "139 countries" needed for a wider international accord.

And Hans Vijlbrief, deputy finance minister in the Netherlands, said on Twitter that his country supported the G7 plans and had already taken steps to stop tax avoidance.

Although EU officials have privately criticised countries such as Ireland or Cyprus, tackling them in public is politically charged and the bloc's blacklist of 'uncooperative' tax centres, due to its criteria, makes no mention of EU havens.

These have flourished by offering companies lower rates through so-called letter-box centres, where they can book profits without having a significant presence.

"European tax havens have no interest in giving in," Sven Giegold, a Green-party member of the European Parliament lobbying for fairer rules, said of the prospects for change.

Nevertheless, Luxembourg's finance minister Pierre Gramegna welcomed the G7 accord, adding that he would contribute to a wider discussion for a detailed international agreement.

Although Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands welcomed the long-fought for reform, Cyprus had a more guarded response.

"The small EU member states' should be acknowledged and taken into consideration," Cyprus's Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides told Reuters.

And even G7 member France may find it hard to completely adjust to the new international rules.

"Big countries like France and Italy also have tax strategies they are determined to keep," Christie said.

The Tax Justice Network ranks the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Cyprus among the most prominent global havens, but also includes France, Spain and Germany on its list.

Europe's divisions flared up in 2015 after documents dubbed the 'LuxLeaks' showed how Luxembourg helped companies channel profits while paying little or no tax.

That prompted a clampdown by Margrethe Vestager, the EU's powerful antitrust chief, who employed rules that prevent illegal state support for companies, arguing that such tax deals amounted to unfair subsidies.

Vestager has opened investigations into Finnish paper packaging company Huhtamaki for back taxes to Luxembourg and investigating the Dutch tax treatment of InterIKEA and Nike.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg have denied the arrangements breach EU rules.

But she has had setbacks such as last year when the General Court threw out her order for iPhone maker Apple (AAPL.O) to pay €13 billion ($16bn) in Irish back taxes, a ruling which is now being appealed.

Vestager's order for Starbucks to pay millions in Dutch back taxes was also rejected.

Despite these defeats, judges have agreed with her approach.

"Fair taxation is a top priority for the EU," a spokesperson for the European Commission said: "We remain committed to ensuring that all businesses ... pay their fair share of tax."

The Netherlands in particular has underscored a willingness to change after criticism of its role as a conduit for multinationals to move profits from one subsidiary to another while paying no or low taxes.

It introduced a rule in January taxing royalties and interest payments sent by Dutch companies to jurisdictions where the corporate tax rate is less than 9%.

"The demand for fairness has grown," said Paul Tang, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. "And now it is combined with a need to finance investment."

($1 = €0.8214)

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Economy

Global Europe: €79.5 billion to support development

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The EU is set to invest €79.5 billion on development and international cooperation in neighbouring countries and further afield by 2027, Society.

As part of its 2021-2027 budget, the European Union is overhauling how it invests outside the bloc. Following a landmark deal with EU countries in December 2020, MEPs will vote during June's plenary session in Strasbourg on establishing the €79.5bn Global Europe fund, which merges several existing EU instruments, including the European Development Fund. This streamlining will allow the EU to more effectively uphold and promote its values and interests worldwide and respond more swiftly to emerging global challenges.

The instrument will finance the EU's foreign policy priorities in the coming seven years and support sustainable development in EU neighbourhood countries, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Global Europe will support projects that contribute to addressing issues such as poverty eradication and migration and promote EU values such as human rights and democracy.

The programme will also support global multilateral efforts and ensure the EU is able to live up to its commitments in the world, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate accord. Thirty percent of the programme’s overall funding will contribute to achieving climate objectives.

At least €19.3bn is earmarked for EU neighbourhood countries with €29.2bn set to be invested in sub-Saharan Africa. Global Europe funding will also be set aside for rapid response action including crisis management and conflict prevention. The EU will boost its support to sustainable investment worldwide under the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, which will leverage private capital to complement direct development assistance.

In negotiations with the Council, Parliament ensured MEPs’ increased involvement in strategic decisions regarding the programme. Once approved, the regulation on Global Europe will retroactively apply from 1 January 2021.

Global Europe is one of 15 EU flagship programmes supported by the Parliament in the negotiations on the EU's budget for 2021-2027 and the EU recovery instrument, which collectively will allow the Union to provide more than €1.8 trillion in funding over the coming years.

Global Europe 

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