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[Check Against Delivery]
Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Statistics, Audit and Anti-fraud
Speaking points by Commissioner Šemeta at the ECOFIN press conference
Economic and Finance Ministers Council
Luxembourg, 14 October 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so pleased that the last ECOFIN meeting of this Commission mandate has been such an interesting and fruitful one from a tax perspective.
Revision of the Administrative Cooperation Directive
First and foremost, I am delighted that Ministers reached the crucial agreement on the revision of the Administrative Cooperation Directive.
It is the perfect finale for a mandate that has seen the fight against tax evasion pushed to a whole new level.
This revised Directive promises full and lasting tax transparency in Europe.
Bank secrecy is dead, and automatic exchange of information will be applied in its widest form.
Member States will fully cooperate in throwing open the traditional hiding places of tax evaders.
Moreover, this legislation will ensure that the EU is fully aligned with the new global standard of automatic exchange, which world leaders have now committed to.
As such, our operators and tax administrations will enjoy more certainty and fewer costs, thanks to complementary EU and global requirements.
With today's agreement, the EU is – once again – keeping the pace in international tax developments.
We are ensuring that our own house is in order and embracing the highest possible standards of good governance.
This sets the bar for our international partners, and we can reasonably expect them to follow suit.
I very much welcome Switzerland's commitment to the full automatic exchange of information, which it confirmed again last week.
The Commission has committed to concluding negotiations on new tax agreements with Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, Lichtenstein and San Marino before the end of the year.
We can now believe that they will be vastly more ambitious than anything we could ever have hoped for when we started.
Swiss joint statement
While on the subject of Switzerland, I warmly welcome today's joint statement that it signed with the 28 Member States here in Luxembourg.
This joint statement – under which Switzerland commits to removing harmful corporate tax regimes – is the result of intense dialogue between the Commission and the Swiss authorities.
It is further proof that when we work together in the EU, to push for fair taxation, impressive results can be delivered.
This was also the spirit of our breakfast discussion today on corporate tax avoidance.
As you know, tackling aggressive tax planning has been a top priority for the EU and this Commission.
And through our common determination, we have made major advances – both at EU and global level.
Internationally, the first BEPS deliverables were agreed by G20 Finance Ministers last month.
Now, the pace and ambition must be maintained, in order to successfully complete this project next year.
This is crucial to create a fairer, more appropriate corporate tax environment worldwide.
Today, we had a chance to consider how the EU can actively contribute to this goal, while continuing to tighten our own defences against tax avoidance.
Central to this discussion was the first major proposal I made as Taxation Commissioner: the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base.
When I presented the CCCTB in 2011, it was already hailed as a ground-breaker in taxation, given the major simplifications it offers to cross-border businesses.
Since then, another huge benefit of this proposal has risen to the surface. The CCCTB can be a powerful tool for reducing tax avoidance by, for example, preventing double non-taxation and removing mismatches.
In fact, many elements of the CCCTB mirror solutions which are currently being looked at by the OECD in the context of BEPS.
I therefore strongly believe that it is an initiative that must be seized with both hands, and agreed on quickly.
I very much hope that the Italian Presidency achieves its objective of presenting a compromise proposal on the CCCTB before the end of the year.
Energy Tax Directive
The end of a mandate is a good time to reflect on successes – and I am proud of how many there have been in taxation during my time here.
However, it would be untrue to claim that there have been no disappointments. And, for me, the biggest of these is the fate of our Energy Tax Directive.
This was another early proposal I made. It was full of ambition, but also full of common sense.
The aim was to completely restructure the way in which energy is taxed in Europe, aligning it to our wider energy and climate change goals and ensuring fairer competition between different fuels.
Unfortunately, the subsequent negotiations on this file have left us with a barely recognisable proposal: one that is not only void of all the improvements we had put forward, but may even aggravate problems that currently exist.
This is a lost opportunity. And it will be for the next College to decide how to proceed with this file.
However, as we strive to create an Energy Union, Member States cannot ignore the critical influence that taxation has in this area.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to conclude by thanking Pier and the Italian Presidency for its excellent work so far.
I know that they have even further ambitions for many tax files before the end of the year, and I wish them all the best in delivering on them.
For my part, I will continue to follow EU tax policy with great personal interest, and I am confident that the many important tax decisions that have been taken at ECOFIN over the past 5 years will continue to resonate for many, many years to come.