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The Brief: Kroes crisis demands Juncker action

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Neelie Kroes, former competition and digital Commissioner, broke EU rules by not declaring she was a director of an offshore firm while in office.

The European Commission today said that it would not speculate on potential punishment for Kroes at this stage, perhaps because they didn’t notice her email confessing to the “oversight” for five days.

Kroes has destroyed the hard-won credibility the Commission built up on tax after the embarrassment of Juncker’s involvement in the LuxLeaks scandal and Cañete’s wife’s links to the Panama Papers controversy.

Kroes took a job on the board at Uber, a company that builds its success on not paying the same amount of tax as traditional taxi drivers.

Worse, she took the job after she was a Commissioner; demanding Belgium gave Uber a free ride.

When the executive was enjoying a rare moment of glory after the Apple tax clawback, Kroes wrote a piece criticising it.

It is true that the Juncker Commission has gone further than the OECD in measures to fight international tax evasion.

But while the Commission proposed country-by country reporting of multinationals profits and tax bills, that only applies in the EU. Any country not on its future tax havens blacklist could still be used to hide shell companies.

The European Commission already forced through global country by country reporting for banks and mining companies, and this should be extended to multinationals.

The EU is debating whether to introduce public registers of the real owners of companies and other structures. The Commission should back making them public, rather than having them restricted access.

Juncker got directly involved in mobile roaming and in the punishment of José Manuel Barroso for taking a job at Goldman Sachs. Unlike Kroes, Barroso broke no EU rules.

The current and very political Commission president needs to get meddling again, swiftly punish Kroes and toughen up his tax laws.

This Brief is powered by Burson-Marsteller.


Strange rumours reach us from France. Is it possible that Jacques Chirac is being kept artificially alive so that François Hollande can get back from the UN in New York in time for them to pull the plug on the former president?

Hollande, Germany and Slovakia are all rushing to get the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate change ratified to head off the threat of Trump. Investors want climate risk to be hardwired into the EU’s Capital Markets Union, and China is in the grips of “wind power frenzy”.

Slovakia is offering scholarships to 500 refugees in a bid to prove that ‘flexible solidarity’ is not just picking and choosing when you close your borders. Solidarity will be needed as Egypt is becoming a major departure country for migrants.

Expect more flexible solidarity during European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s visit to London. After swapping a mutual “who are you” with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has a Ken Loach directed film out, he will meet Theresa May at 5PM.

No doubt, the mythic Article 50 will be brought up. Irish leader Enda Kenny reckons it will be invoked in January or February next year, just like Donald Tusk does. May denied the Tusk comments.

The long-delayed visa liberalisation for Turks coming to the EU, the carrot for Ankara in the migrant-swap deal, will not happen until 2017, analysts today predicted.

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has told the EU to f**** off after criticism of the rising death toll of his war on drugs.

Asked for a riposte, the Commission’s chief spokesman said he was “tempted” to reply in similar terms…

We’ve got no way of knowing for certain but we wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised if there is another round of juicy revelations from Bahamas Leaks later tonight or tomorrow morning.


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