Nine member states – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Finland and Greece – signed a letter to Denmark on 7 February calling for progress on the introduction of an FTT before the end of its EU Council Presidency.
Germany tabled the FTT on the agenda of today’s finance ministers meeting – which will take place in an open, and televised section of the gathering – with the aim of clarifying the positions of those countries which have not declared either way.
France, Germany eager to move on FTT
Since France and Germany are both eager to advance progress on the tax, the meeting will determine the chances of pushing forward with an enhanced co-operation procedure, which requires the support of at least nine member states.
Britain and Sweden oppose an FTT, whilst the Czech Republic is tepid towards the idea. Ireland has said it would favour such a tax, but preferably applied globally and not to only by a sub-EU group. The positions of the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary and the other states remain ambiguous.
In addition to ascertaining how much support for an enhanced co-operation exists, the meeting will also assess the extent of opposition. An enhanced co-operation procedure cannot be opposed by member states if nine or more states are in favour, the proposal passes a qualified majority vote in the Council, and the proposal does not run counter to the Single Market.
Spain and Italy began legal proceedings against the proposal for an EU patent – an enhanced co-operation brought by the other 25 member states in the face of opposition from Mediterranean countries – on such grounds.
Penalty slapped on Hungary
Diplomatic sources from countries ambivalent on the FTT told EurActiv that the Commission had failed to show the benefits it would bring and that the single market test would be a "delicate issue to overcome".
Meanwhile the finance ministers meeting in Brussels will also slap a conditional penalty on Hungary for its failure to bring down its budget deficit below 3% of GDP. The ministers will endorse a Commission proposal to withdraw one-third of cohesion funds available to Hungary during 2013 – totaling some €495 million.
The penalty will be applied unless Hungary demonstrates before 1 January 2013 that it has taken appropriate measures to meet the Commission’s concerns on its deficit.
Hungarian observers noted the penalty would only apply to available funds, and would not affect any money pledged before 1 January next year.