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Speech - Statement at Ecofin Council

European Commission - SPEECH/13/1051   10/12/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Algirdas Šemeta

Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Statistics, Audit and Anti-fraud

Statement at Ecofin Council

ECOFIN PRESS CONFERENCE /Brussels, 10 December 2013

This has been a remarkable year.

Little could I have imagined, when I presented my Action Plan here 12 months ago, the huge momentum that would build behind the campaign to clamp down on tax evasion.

In just 12 months, we have set up the framework to expand the automatic exchange of information as widely as possible within the EU.

We have taken steps to close loopholes in corporate tax law, which will the shut door on certain types of tax avoidance.

We have set the wheels in motion to find solutions to taxing the digital economy, so that this sector also pays it share.

And we have agreed measures to tackle VAT fraud, and proposed measures to ease compliance, in order to reduce the €193bn VAT Gap across Europe.

Meanwhile, ambitions have been translated into commitments at international level too.

With the EU at the heart of the negotiations, the G20 endorsed the OECD project to address Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.

And, in February, the G20 leaders should endorse the new global standard for automatic information exchange.

Today, we heard many Member States profess a willingness to lead the way in implementing this new global standard.

They want to keep Europe at the international forefront when it comes to good governance.

Therefore, it is not just disappointing that we could not agree on the Savings Directive today - it is incomprehensible.

It is out of synch with the mood and resolutions at both EU and international level.

By now, I've said all that there is to be said on this topic. After all, this file has been on the table since before I took office.

But the environment in which we are discussing it today is very, very different to even a year ago.

And I would have expected Member States' positions to evolve to meet the reality in which we are now working.

At this stage the clock is ticking and excuses are running out.

In May, EU leaders called strongly and unconditionally for the EU Savings Directive to be agreed before the end of 2013.

It was not done today by Finance Ministers. So it will have to be pursued by the leaders themselves when they meet next week.

Returning to the wider picture, 2013 has been a year of immense progress.

It is a year of commitments to go stronger and faster against tax evaders.

It is a year when the world decided to turn its back on bank secrecy and harmful competition, and move towards a more transparent and fair global tax environment.

The political backing is there. The momentum remains.

But for real results, words are not enough. They must be turned into action.

So, for the sake of fair and efficient taxation, 2014 must be the year of delivery.

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