Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ecofin meeting: Not the end of Robin Hood Tax debate

The recent meeting of the EU ministers for economy and finance (Ecofin) could not find an agreement on the implementation of the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) also known as Robin Hood Tax. But according to Peter Wahl of weed Germany, “this is not yet the end of the discussion”. The official communiqué says: “Ministers will further discuss the issue at an informal meeting in Brussels on 30 September and 1 October." This is confirmed by a statement of the German finance minister Schäuble who said (according to the German edition of the Financial Times) that the implementation of the tax was not for sure but there would be a chance for which one must fight. The British finance minister Osborn said instead: "This has been discussed since decades and will continue to be discussed for decades."

Unofficial sources said that Greece would have joined the camp of the proponents which by now consists of Austria, Belgium, France, and Germany.

The president of the EU Commission (the executive of the Union) Barroso said in a speech at the European Parliament yesterday: "I am also defending taxes on financial activities and we will come with proposals this autumn." It is unclear what he means by "financial activities". It could be the "Financial Activities Tax" as proposed by the IMF, but it could also be something else. Probably the opacity is by intention in order not to occur partisan between the big shots Germany and France on the one hand and the UK at the other.

France announced to raise the issue of the FTT again in the G20, although the Toronto summit had refused the FFT.

As the Germans had announced that in case that an implementation at EU level would not be possible - and the statement of Osborn points very much in that direction - an implementation in the Euro Zone should be considered. The finance minister of Luxembourg, Luc Frieden, opposed this and said the FTT "in the Euro zone only is not acceptable."

Despite the political differences on the subject Peter Wahl still sees a window of opportunity for the FTT:

“The differences between the elites are obvious. They are not capable to come to an agreement in either direction. Pressure from civil society should therefore continue. This is also important in those countries, where the government is in favour of the FTT, in order to prevent a retreat. There are some major countries such as Italy and Spain where the government is silent. There, pressure should try to reach a positive attitude.
The option of the implementation in the Euro zone should be looked at more in detail. The Europeans should prepare for the October Ecofin and the proposal announced by the Commission. At global level, the UN conference on the MDGs and the General Assembly and the G20 summit in Seoul could be further landmarks for campaigning.”

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