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European Commission

Algirdas Šemeta

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

Statement at Ecofin Council

Press Conference /Luxembourg, 21 June 2013

Today, Member States have taken another step forward in the crucial battle to clamp down on fraudsters and evaders in Europe.

The adoption of the VAT fraud package will ensure that Member States can respond more swiftly and efficiently to VAT fraud, which costs public budgets several billion euro every year.

As such, it will protect much needed public revenues and create a fairer environment for honest businesses.

It is, therefore, an important and extremely welcome result from this Council.

However, there is also a broader significance to today's agreement.

It is further proof of Member States' new readiness to march against tax fraud, evasion and avoidance, with real determination.

The momentum in this area clearly has not been lost.

We just need to look at how much has been achieved in this area, even since EU Finance Ministers last met in May.

First, we have had the European Council.

Here, our leaders issued an unequivocal call for concrete measures to better tackle tax evasion and avoidance – in certain cases with clear deadlines for action.

The agenda has been set at the highest political level.

We should now expect decisive actions – both here at the ECOFIN and at national level – as Member States deliver on these commitments.

The European Council also laid good ground for the successful outcome of this week's G8 Summit in the field of taxation.

With their united position, the EU participants were able to rally firm commitments from the world's largest economies.

I must particularly compliment the UK for all the energy and work they put into this.

This is a critical step towards the G20 in September, where we expect a change in global rules to be confirmed.

Secondly, just last week, I tabled a proposal to ensure that the EU has the most comprehensive automatic information exchange system in the world.

I presented this today to the Ministers, and am encouraged by the positive reactions.

Quick adoption of this proposal will be a further sign that the EU can be the flag-bearer for greater transparency and information exchange in the global arena.

Third, having received the mandate last month to negotiate stronger savings tax agreements with 5 of our closest neighbours, the Commission has hit the ground running.

I have already visited Switzerland and San Marino, and met with the Prime Minister of Lichtenstein, to give a political kick-start to what I hope will be quick negotiations.

Each of these countries accepted to discuss automatically exchanging information with the EU, on a broad scope of income.

In the coming weeks, I will go to Monaco and Andorra too, and I hope the official negotiations with all 5 will begin shortly afterwards.

Finally, as a reminder that national action is a key contributor to our collective success, the Commission issued CSRs to 13 Member States to improve tax compliance domestically.

We had a good discussion on the CSRs today, and they should be adopted by EU leaders at the end of the month.

To sum up:

If all this can be achieved in a few short weeks, we should expect truly remarkable progress before the end of the year.

There is plenty of opportunity for this – at national, EU and international level.

However, it will require sustained efforts and continued determination.

The fight against tax evasion cannot be a political "flash in the pan".

For the sake of fair taxation and crucial revenues, the work in this area must keep pace, even after the headlines have died down.

Before I finish, I would like to express my deep thanks to Michael and his team for all they have done for EU tax policy over the past 6 months.

I congratulate you on what has been a very successful Presidency.


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