The Socialists may become the first to use the new European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in their bid to request new EU legislation on taxing financial speculation, according to their leader Martin Schulz.
The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament are ready to use the new mechanism in their drive against speculation, German MEP Schulz announced yesterday (2 September).
Schulz said the S&D group will use the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) if the European Commission confirms its opposition to a Europe-wide "financial transaction tax".
Last Tuesday, German daily Handelsblatt reported that Taxation Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta was against the idea, saying a financial transaction tax would drive up costs for businesses and governments.
The statement runs against the views of Germany and France, who indicated they would back such a tax.
"I hope Mr. Barroso will take a position, and in any case I will ask him what his opinion is," Schulz said, referring to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso's 'State of the Union' speech, expected next Tuesday in Strasbourg. "In spite of [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel [backing the tax], it does not appear to be on the Commission agenda any more," Schulz added.
If Barroso decides to back his commissioner, Schulz said the European Socialists would trigger a Citizens' Initiative to push for a financial transaction tax at EU level.
"I am sure we can obtain the necessary signatures," Schulz said, referring to the condition that one million signatures must be gathered in at least nine member countries (see 'Background').
Asked by EURACTIV if it was fair for a large political family such as the Socialists to make use of an instrument designed for citizens, Schulz argued that political parties, like NGOs, associations or journalists, were all free to use the new mechanism. He also remarked that the European Parliament currently has no powers initiate new legislation in the field of taxation and that the Citizens' Initiative could help bridge this gap.
Asked in what timeframe he expected the Citizens' Initiative to bear fruit, Schulz said that the legal base for the ECI could be in place by the end of the year. He said that Hungarian MEP Zita Gurmai was the contact person in his political group on the issue.