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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Algirdas Šemeta

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

Speaking points by Commissioner Šemeta at the ECOFIN press conference

Press conference following the Economic and Finance Ministers Council

Brussels, 6 May 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Financial Transaction Tax is back in the spotlight – and with good reason.

Together, we have had a chance to assess the progress of this important file today.

And I am pleased to say that there is definitely progress to report.

Last week, the Court of Justice laid to rest any speculation over enhanced cooperation on the FTT. Legally, it is 100% sound.

Today, the participating Member States have reiterated their commitment to the FTT and laid down their roadmap for its implementation.

This is a welcome signal.

Of course, there is still quite a road to travel before the FTT is in place.

The participating Member States need to continue to invest wholeheartedly in this file to make it law within the timeframe foreseen.

It is true that the plan and pace are less ambitious than the Commission had proposed.

But, every step forward on the Financial Transaction Tax is of significance.

In the chaos of the counter-lobby claims, it is easy to lose sight of what is being pioneered here.

The EU FTT will be the first regional financial transaction tax in the world.

It will strengthen the Single Market by avoiding a patchwork of national taxes.

It will ensure that the financial sector makes a fairer contribution to public finances.

And it will complement EU regulatory measures for financial stability.

So if the participating Member States make a common FTT a reality, that is a major achievement, even if they proceed more tentatively than was envisaged.

But now this has to happen, and happen quickly.

I would like to thank the Greek Presidency for organising today's discussion on the FTT, which is the first that we've had at ECOFIN level since enhanced cooperation was launched.

The Presidency has an important role now to assess all Member States' positions and come forward with a compromise proposal for discussion at the Working Party meetings.

This will ensure full transparency and the inclusion of all Member States in the process.

And I hope that, when it is on this Council's agenda again, we will see even greater progress – perhaps even the political agreement that citizens have long been calling for.

Moving on to the Parent-Subsidiary Directive, it is indeed a pity that we could not reach agreement today.

The revision of the Parent-Subsidiary Directive is crucial to our fight against aggressive tax planning.

Our proposal will close loopholes, bridge national mismatches and basically block off opportunities for corporate tax avoidance, which are currently being exploited.

I had very much hoped that we would see political accord on the measure to tackle a prevalent tax avoidance arrangement, known as hybrid loans.

However, Sweden needs additional reassurances on a specific, technical issue, of national importance.

These are reassurances that the Commission is, of course, happy to give.

We will be working closely with Sweden over the next few weeks to iron out any issues that they might have with the text. And I have every confidence that we can resolve them quite quickly.

Sweden is always very constructive player at these Finance Ministers' meetings, and a strong supporter of the EU campaign against tax avoidance.

So I believe that we should be able to agree on this file in the June ECOFIN, once we have discussed it in more depth with Sweden.

Meanwhile, the other amendment to the Parent-Subsidiary Directive – namely a general anti-abuse rule - will be taken forward by the Italian Presidency.

Agreement on the revised Parent-Subsidiary Directive would mean fairer revenues for Member States, fairer competition for businesses and fairer taxation across Europe.

So Member States must keep their eye on the prize, and work with full vigour to adopt these important measures.

Finally, allow me to briefly welcome today's adoption of the Directive to harmonise and strengthen criminal law against euro-counterfeiting.

Not only will this boost confidence in our common currency, by creating a stronger shield against counterfeiting.

It will also help to protect honest businesses and citizens from ending up with fake money in their pockets.

While the final text has less bite than the Commission would have liked, it is nonetheless an important advance on where we stand today.

The euro is better protected against criminals, thanks to this new law adopted today.

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