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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Algirdas Šemeta

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

Cementing Tax Transparency: Breakthrough Agreement on EU Savings Directive

Statement - European Commission Press room

Brussels, 24 March 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today marks a major breakthrough in EU tax policy and a major step forward in our common fight against tax evasion.

After 6 years of hard discussions, the EU Savings Tax Directive was formally adopted by Member States this morning.

This agreement – which was endorsed by EU leaders last week - is highly significant for many reasons.

First, it means that one of our key tools for tax transparency in the EU will be considerably strengthened. Loopholes exploited by evaders will be closed.

Second, it is politically symbolic. An important anti-evasion file has been unblocked, after years of deadlock. This is proof of the widespread acceptance that the days of bank secrecy and tax intransparency are over.

Finally, today's adoption means that we remain on track as global front-runners in tax good governance.

The revised Savings Tax Directive will be part of the EU's legislative structure for implementing the new global standard on automatic exchange of information.

The EU has engaged actively in the OECD's process to develop the new global standard, contributing practical experience and long-standing expertise.

As a result, we can now be confident that our approach is fully consistent with the global one. The two should blend seamlessly together, thereby avoiding disruptions for our businesses.

I would like to commend the OECD for the work they have done in creating the new global standard, which is truly remarkable.

And I must also commend Austria and Luxembourg for their decision to move on the Savings Directive – which facilitated today's adoption.

I know that this file is of enormous national significance for them, and I am glad that they are now reassured that their interests are protected and respected.

I believe they were particularly encouraged by the report that I gave to Finance Ministers, on the progress we are making in negotiations for stronger tax agreements with our closest neighbours.

Switzerland and the 4 other countries now accept that the automatic exchange of information must be at the core of their relations with the EU in taxation.

This would have been inconceivable even a year ago, and it shows how far we've come in changing mind-sets globally.

I have assured Member States that our negotiations with these countries will continue with speed and ambition, with the aim of presenting results before the end of the year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tax evasion undermines fiscal sustainability, fair taxation and level competition.

The loss of billions in unpaid taxes weighs heavily on the pockets of honest tax-payers.

That is why the campaign against evasion has leapt to the top of everyone's political agenda over the past couple of years.

We have made immense progress, and today is another milestone.

But it is not the last one.

For example, I expect swift agreement on the Administrative Cooperation Directive to cement the widest scope of automatic exchange between our Member States. It is another crucial instrument for the widest possible tax transparency in Europe.

And our work to ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax – including multinational and digital ones - must maintain full pace.

I will therefore continue to work tirelessly – together with the Member States, OECD and other international partners – to improve the tax framework and strengthen our tools against tax evasion and avoidance.

I hope to be back here many times again before the end of this mandate, to present further success-stories in this field.

Thank you.

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