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EU countries are dismantling barriers to European Single Market

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20140605PHT49003_originalSince last summer, EU countries have stepped up their efforts to make it easier to live, work or do business in another EU country, according to the latest edition of the Single Market Scoreboard released by the European Commission today (17 July).

The Scoreboard indicates to what extent member states and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries implement EU rules that are there to help citizens prosper in the single market; how member states co-operate in a number of policy fields where coordination is essential; and how much information and assistance they provide to citizens and businesses on their opportunities within Europe.

The Scoreboard provides country-specific information and analyses in detail how certain governance tools function and policies are applied in each country. The scope of the Single Market Scoreboard has been extended to two specific policy areas: public procurement and postal services.

Main conclusions

A 'traffic light' chart shows at a glance how individual Member States have performed in terms of the governance tools and policy areas monitored, including the correct transposition of EU directives, infringement proceedings, administrative cooperation networks and various information and problem-solving services. The Commission has given red, yellow and green 'cards' based on their performance in the given fields.

Of the 11 EU countries that performed better than the EU average in all areas monitored, the most impressive result was achieved by Estonia (8 "green cards") and Finland (7 "green cards"). 31 times Member States' performance was below average which resulted in "red cards".

EU countries have significantly improved their performance since the last edition of the Scoreboard (IP/14/205). The Commission has now given 109 green cards (compared to 99 in February 2014), 106 yellow (up from 94 in February 2014) and 20 red (down from 30 in February 2014). This does not include public procurement figures as they are published for the first time.

Transposition

During the past six months the average transposition deficit - the percentage of Single Market Directives that have not been transposed into national law in time - has remained unchanged at 0.7%. Despite having joined the EU only recently, Croatia scores best with only 0.1% while Italy reached its best result ever (0.7%) by halving its previous deficit. Greece, Finland and the United Kingdom also reached their best result ever. On the negative side, five Member States remain above the 1% target.

Infringements

On Single Market-related infringement proceedings, the EU average number of pending cases has increased for the first time since November 2008, which shows that, after a constant decrease of this global number (mainly due to the establishment of early problem-solving systems like SOLVIT and EU-Pilot), the situation seems to have stabilized. The major concerns continue to be mainly in the areas of the environment, taxation and transport.

Public procurement

The Commission has compared several aspects of public procurement in European Economic Area (EEA) countries. It examined the participation rate of bidders, which gives an indication of levels of competition and red tape; the accessibility of tenders to bidders; and the efficiency of procurement procedures. The best EU performers in this regard were Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland; the worst were Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. Overall, in the areas analysed, 8 of the 12 EU member states who joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 tend to underperform. The results also highlight significant differences in the quality of reporting by member states.

Postal services

In the field of postal services it can be observed that domestic postal transit times are still faster in the west and south of Europe than in the east. Cross-border priority mail sometimes can cost twice as much as the domestic equivalent.

Prices for domestic and cross-border mail are quite divergent in nearly all member states. Finland is the only country that does not make any difference between the price of delivery within the country or to another EU Member State.

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Environment

Greening of transport 'must provide realistic alternatives'

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In an opinion adopted at its June plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) says that the energy transition must – without denying its objectives – consider the economic and social characteristics of all parts of Europe and be open to an ongoing dialogue with civil society organizations.

The EESC supports the greening of transport, but stresses that the energy transition must be fair and provide viable and realistic alternatives that take account of the specific economic and social territorial features and needs of all parts of Europe, including rural areas.

This is the main message of the opinion drafted by Pierre Jean Coulon and Lidija Pavić-Rogošić and adopted at the Committee's June plenary session. In its assessment of the 2011 White Paper on Transport, which aims to break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility, the EESC takes a firm stand.

Limiting modes of transport is not an option: the aim should be co-modality, not modal shift. In addition, the ecological transition must both be socially fair and preserve the competitiveness of European transport, with full implementation of the European Transport Area, as part of the full implementation of the Single Market. Delays in this respect are regrettable.

Commenting on the adoption of the opinion on the sidelines of the plenary, Coulon said: "Curbing mobility is not an alternative. We support any measures aimed at making transport more energy efficient and reducing emissions. Europe is going through a period of headwinds, but this should not lead to changes of course in terms of social and environmental expectations of the various European initiatives."

Continuous consultation of civil society organizations

The EESC encourages an open, continuous and transparent exchange of views on the implementation of the White Paper between civil society, the Commission and other relevant players such as national authorities at different levels, stressing that this will improve civil society buy-in and understanding, as will useful feedback to policy makers and those carrying out implementation.

"The Committee draws attention to the importance of securing the support of civil society and stakeholders, including through participatory dialogue, as suggested in our previous opinions on this matter", added Pavić-Rogošić. "A good understanding and broad acceptance of strategic goals will be extremely helpful in achieving results."

The EESC also highlights the need for more robust social evaluation and reiterates the statement made in its 2011 opinion on the Social aspects of EU transport policy, urging the European Commission to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the harmonisation of social standards for intra-EU traffic, bearing in mind that an international level playing field is also needed in this respect. Establishing an EU Social, Employment and Training Observatory in the transport sector is a priority.

Monitoring progress in a timely and effective manner

With reference to the evaluation process for the 2011 White Paper, the EESC points out that the procedure was launched late and that the Committee was only involved because it expressly asked to be.

The Commission should have a clear plan for monitoring its strategic documents from the beginning and publish progress reports on their implementation on a regular basis, so that it is possible to assess in a timely manner what has been achieved and what has not and why, and to act accordingly.

In the future, the EESC wishes to continue to benefit from regular progress reports on the implementation of Commission strategies and to contribute effectively to transport policy.

Background

The 2011 White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system set the paramount objective of European transport policy: establishing a transport system that underpins European economic progress, enhances competitiveness and offers high-quality mobility services while using resources more efficiently.

The Commission has acted on almost all of the policy initiatives planned in the White Paper. However, the oil dependency of the EU transport sector, although clearly decreasing, is still high. Progress has also been limited in addressing the problem of road congestion, which persists in Europe.

Several initiatives in the context of the White Paper have improved the social protection of transport workers, but civil society and research organisations still fear that developments like automation and digitalisation could negatively affect future working conditions in transport.

The needs of EU transport policy are therefore largely still relevant today, in particular in terms of increasing the environmental performance and competitiveness of the sector, modernizing it, improving its safety and deepening the single market.

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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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