Schulz denies blocking TAXE committee’s Luxleaks investigation

Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz [European Parliament]

Green MEPs have accused European Parliament President Martin Schulz of blocking the TAXE committee’s tax evasion work to protect some of the politicians being investigated, such as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem

On Thursday (26 November) the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents decided not to extend the mandate of the special committee which is investigating taxation. Instead, it was agreed to create a new special committee on taxation, to last six months, with the political groups now tasked to work on a new mandate. 

The creation of the TAXE committee was a response to the Luxleaks scandal. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) leaked documents showing that more than 300 companies, including PepsiCo Inc, AIG Inc and Deutsche Bank AG, secured secret deals from Luxembourg to slash their tax bills.

Parliament eventually decided to set up a special committee for six months, in order to investigate the sophisticated tax rulings of EU member states.

On Wednesday (25 November), the Parliament adopted the TAXE committee’s report on tax practices of big businesses in Europe. 

>>Read: TAXE committee to fight tax evasion for another six months

Greens President Philippe Lamberts said in a statement that Schulz has used procedural “tricks” to prevent the prolongation of the special parliamentary committee investigating taxation. 

“He is clearly more interested in protecting politicians directly implicated in the scandal, like Jean-Claude Juncker and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, instead of ensuring Parliament plays its role in investigating the biggest tax scandal in the history of the EU.”

In October, EU Competition chief Margrethe Vestager ordered Dijsselbloem’s Netherlands to recover €20-30 million in back taxes from Starbucks and told Juncker’s Luxembourg to claim the same amount from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Green group’s tax policy spokesperson, Sven Giegold, added that any weakening of the mandate of the new committee will already lead to unnecessary bureaucracy and delay. 

“The current proposal for a mandate from the presidents of the EPP and S&D political groups is totally unacceptable and would downgrade the new committee little more than an information tool. If there is no support for a robust investigative mandate, we will renew our push for a fully-fledged inquiry committee,” Giegold said.

Making a scandal out of nothing

But John Schranz, press officer for Martin Schulz, said that it’s sad that the Greens are “choosing to spend energy making a scandal out of something that is not”, rather than using their time to publicise the adopted report that all groups agree is excellent.

“On the allegations being made about President Schulz, it is frustrating that the Greens group agree with the procedures to be followed during the meetings of the Conference of Presidents but then publically denounce these decisions. During two separate conference of Presidents meetings the past two weeks, the Greens’ representative agreed with the procedure but then their press communication and other public statements were completely different,” Schranz told EURACTIV.

In both of these meetings, it was made clear, said Schranz, that once the choice to vote on a final report was made, the only way work could be continued was through a new mandate.  Doing anything else would have been a breach of the rules of procedure and even a breach of the original mandate of the TAXE committee, he continued.

On Wednesday (2 December) a new mandate for the TAXE committee, drafted by expert MEPs, will be discussed by the Conference of Presidents. Since the guidelines given by the Conference of Presidents to these experts is that the mandate should be based on the original mandate, it is not clear how this can be understood as a weakening of the mandate, said Schulz’s spokesperson.

On 12 February 2015, the European Parliament decided to launch a special committee for an initial period of six months, to investigate the sophisticated tax rulings of EU member states that became the centre of a media storm earlier this year.

With 45 members and the same number of substitutes, the TAXE Committee's role is primarily to investigate the compatibility of tax rulings with the rules on state aid and tax law. The special committee has now drafted a report, including recommendations on how to improve transparency and cooperation between member states to the benefit of the internal market, European companies and citizens.

The report was debated in the European Parliament’s plenary session on 24 November, and its conclusions adopted by a large majority on 25 November 2015.

  • 2 December: Conference of Presidents to discuss TAXE Committe's new mandate.

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