Before I start, let me say I like the Dutch sense of symbolism.
The Commission metaphor, all throughout the sovereign debt crisis, was that we had to repair the boat in the middle of a storm'.
So it's only right that we meet, today, at the National Maritime Museum: even though we are in much calmer waters now, the work continues and the boat is not finished yet.
We are here to discuss, today and tomorrow, on a number of work streams related to both making our economy perform better and completing the Economic and Monetary Union. We also had in-depth discussions on the fight against money laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance – subjects that are critical for the
legitimacy of national and EU politics.
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The first debate was on strengthening the banking union.
Today, two pillars of Banking Union – single supervision and resolution – are in place. Thorough implementation of these pillars and of the related rules is key, and the Commission is monitoring this closely.
But we need to go further.
In our work to complete Banking Union, we have always linked the sharing of risks with the need to reduce risks.
The Five Presidents' Report already noted the relevance of this. As we said in our Communication on completing Banking Union last November, the Commission is committed to further reduce risks, and this includes assessing the prudential treatment of sovereign debt.
From the Commission's perspective, any future decision on possible changes in prudential treatment of sovereign exposures would of course need to pay particular attention to financial stability aspects, and for those purposes draw on relevant quantitative analysis.
But let me also highlight once again that we need parallel progress on three fronts to complete the Banking Union: 1. a functioning European Deposit Insurance Scheme; 2. a genuine backstop; and 3. further measures to reduce risk.
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Secondly, in the context of Panama papers, Ministers showed strong and unanimous commitment to lead the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance.
The European Commission welcomes the EU-28 agreement to enter into a pilot project for the automatic exchange of information on ultimate beneficial owners. This is the follow-up of the letter by the so-called G5 last week in Washington. Commission will now work to facilitate and assist in putting this agreement into practice.
We will also follow-up on the mandate to explore ways to introduce disincentives for those who give advise in tax evasion planning and elaborate tax evasion schemes.
The Commission welcomes the strong support for establishment of an EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions as well as the idea to define dissuasive countermeasures against such jurisdictions. We believe that we can get this listing system up and running very soon – and the Commission is ready to work on it. This is yet another way for Europe to show leadership and EU list will be the first step to ambitious global list.
In parallel, it is important to achieve quick progress on the Commission's legislative proposals.
First, we fully support the Dutch Presidency’s goal to reach a political agreement on the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive in May. With the right political will, this is entirely achievable. And the progress so far should allow the final text to be ambitious - without gaps or loopholes.
Second, we need to maintain momentum on our transparency agenda. We hope for rapid progress on the rules requiring multinationals to publish country-by-country information on their income tax, which the Commission proposed last week.
Third, the Commission plans to present a revised proposal for the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, in the context of the fight against terrorism financing. Certainly we will evaluate the possibility for this proposal to be broader to go beyond measures for terrorism financing, also to capture issues on tax avoidance.
I believe that today we sent a powerful message to our citizens and to countries around the world that, when it comes to tackling tax heavens, we are delivering and we are committed to lead by example.
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Finally, we had a good discussion about the financial aspects of sustainable development – another important issue, after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21) of last year.
Finance plays a large part in making the transition happen.
In terms of public finance, the EU leads mobilisation efforts through its commitment to spend at least 20% of its 2014-2020 budget on climate action.
In terms of private finance, we agreed that we need to create the framework for investors to take into account both the potential long-term benefits as well as the risks involved.