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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 22/05/2013

 

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EU debates tax dodging

According to EU estimates, each year the member states lose around a trillion euros through tax avoidance. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The joint fight against tax avoidance and evasion is the main topic at the EU summit taking place this Wednesday in Brussels. However a concrete agreement on matters like EU-wide data exchange on account holders' incomes is not expected. In view of the immense sums that EU states lose to tax dodging each year, which could be put to good use in the crisis, commentators call for international tax laws.

Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

High time for fight against tax dodgers

If at their summit in Brussels the EU leaders get serious about their fight against tax evasion they could open up new instruments to combat the crisis, the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny writes hopefully: "It has taken more than four years for Europe's politicians to realise that it's not enough to cut benefits and raise taxes. There is another major reservoir to be tapped for money - cracking down on tax evasion. Commission chief Barroso has even called for tax data exchange across the EU. … It's strange that the fight against such a dirty business has taken so long. Tax evasion deprives the EU of a sum approximating one trillion euros each year. That's more than the entire EU budget for healthcare. … Fears that the tax evasion business will transfer to places like Singapore are only partially justified. Big business will no doubt find a loophole. But for everyone else, anything outside Europe is terrain that is too foreign." (22/05/2013)

Diário de Notícias - Portugal

EU and US could be pioneers

Europe's course of action in the fight against tax avoidance has so far been unambitious, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias contends, calling on the EU member states to finally follow up words with deeds at their summit in Brussels today, Wednesday: "It's estimated that the continent loses around a trillion euros in revenues each year - that's roughly the sum of Portugal's GDP over six years. The sacrifices being demanded of citizens across Europe to reduce the public deficits have reached tragic proportions. Particularly when you look at the profiteers who twist the tax laws to such an extent that a sum twice as high as all the EU deficits taken together is embezzled. Tax transparency and the fight against tax havens have been on the G20's agenda for four years now. If the US and the EU crank up the pressure, the rest of the world will join them in the fight against tax havens and their dirty money. Then we'll see tangible results, not just rhetoric." (22/05/2013)

Libération - France

Tax avoidance is a global affliction

Close cooperation is needed to fight tax avoidance not just in Europe but around the world, the left-liberal daily Libération demands: "The crisis has a sad virtue. It has made people in most Western countries aware of the circuits into which billions of euros or dollars from the state treasuries disappear each year. Fiscal fraud is a global plague that arouses legitimate indignation on the part of the public. Accepting taxes is one of the basic pillars our democracies are built on. Those who seek to avoid them must be relentlessly hunted down. But determination on the part of individual governments isn't enough. Whether it's organised by individuals or large companies, fraud is the consequence of a lack of international cooperation. The global economy requires a global taxation system." (22/05/2013)

Irish Examiner - Ireland

International rules are a must

During a hearing before the US Senate on Thursday, Apple boss Tim Cook faced accusations that the technology company was using its network of foreign subsidiaries to avoid taxes. The liberal daily Irish Examiner calls for new international tax rules: "The challenge for the international community is to establish and enforce codes that encourage business, but also ensure that multibillion-dollar tax liabilities cannot be dodged by sharp accounting. That this has never been achieved indicates how very difficult that task is. However, unless we are prepared to see even more power swing away from elected governments to international conglomerates without any social or national loyalties then that must be done. It will require political, diplomatic and financial skills of the highest order, great determination too, but the consequences of not doing so are disastrous." (22/05/2013)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Europe's reluctant fight

There are more than enough arguments for plugging up the tax loopholes used above all by multinational companies, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant argues, while remaining doubtful that Europe's politicians will really take any action: "This issue is being avoided by portraying one's own behaviour as exemplary and pinning the blame on others. In the Apple affair, Ireland is pointing to the loopholes in the US legislation that make tax tricks possible. And the Netherlands is also depicting itself as beyond reproach. The government stresses that all the constructions [that allow tax avoidance] are legal and that the Netherlands earns a billion euros each year with this. That is enough to silence the parliament for the most part. … It's good that there is now more than enough support for measures against tax loopholes - and the sum of at least a trillion euros in lost income estimated by the European Commission is consolidating that support. On the other hand there is the danger of growing frustration if the multinationals continue to get away with their tricks." (22/05/2013)

POLITICS

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Der Standard - Austria

Beacon of hope de Maizière becomes a risk

Germany's Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière is currently being called to account for the immense costs of the failed Euro Hawk drone project. Instead of taking a stand right away, he wants to wait for a report from his arms experts. The chancellor is no doubt unimpressed by her protégé's escapades in this election year, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "At the moment Merkel can only hope that de Maizière survives the drone debacle and has a few good explanations for the Bundestag, the Court of Auditors and the people of Germany up his sleeve. ... Many citizens are rightly calling for a quick explanation. What happens when you try to shirk responsibility is highlighted by the inglorious political end of de Maizière's direct predecessor Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU). An even brighter beacon of hope, he fell from grace over his plagiarized dissertation. And in fact de Maizière took over the defence portfolio with the tacit promise of taking the job more seriously." (21/05/2013)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Italy's parties fight each other relentlessly

The social democrats in Italy are moving to exclude Beppe Grillo's protest party Movimento 5 Stelle from the next elections by reforming the electoral law. For his part Grillo is pushing in parliament for ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to be ousted from his Senate seat owing to a conflict of interests. Both sides are using the law to try and eliminate their political opponents, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera writes angrily: "The good news: politics has discovered that there is such a thing as the law. The bad news: the politicians are upending the law, turning it into a backhander for swiping at their poor opponents. The campaigns against Berlusconi and the Movimento 5 Stelle have in common that they want to sweep the two off the political stage for good. They also use the same instrument: not the vote but the veto is decisive, which is to be chiselled into the tablets of the law. … The law means dispensing with revenge, Adorno and Horkheimer said. But unfortunately they were wrong. In Italy the politicians turn even the law into a blunt instrument." (22/05/2013)

Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany

SPD making costly promises for its birthday

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding this year. But even the left-liberal Frankfurter Rundschau, which is partially owned by the SPD Medien-Holding, is critical in its congratulations: "The SPD has always been a party of progress. But right now it is unable to hold out a persuasive promise for the future. That promise could for example be consistently turning our industrial society towards sustainable energy production. But the Greens have already claimed this topic as their own. The fight for a united Europe would also fit the bill. But the prospect frightens away the SPD's own customers. Originally the party comrades wanted to put education at the centre of its election manifesto [before this year's election]. … But now education is just one SPD theme among many. … The SPD has opened its traditional lucky bag and pulling out promises that cost billions of euros - from child benefit to house building to pensions. … In this way the comrades will merrily celebrate the party's birthday. But secretly they know that they won't be ushering in a new era yet." (22/05/2013)

Standart - Bulgaria

Bulgaria's nationalists profit from stalemate

Bulgaria's new parliament convened for the first time on Tuesday. With the current distribution of seats neither the Socialists and the Turkish Party on the one hand, nor the election winner Gerb on the other, will be able to form a functioning majority government. The big winner in this stalemate is the nationalist party Ataka, the daily Standart warns: "'We will be your nightmare', party leader Volen Siderov said at the opening of the new parliament. ... The nationalist leader will play the role of Saint Peter in parliament. He holds the decisive votes for the formation of any government in his hand. Without him, no posts can be delegated and no laws passed. ... The situation in parliament is destructive, and already reeks of secret deals and chaos. Soon the voters will also see that with their votes they elected a complete farce that, blinded by its cravings for power and revenge, will be powerless to pull the carriage of state from the mud in which it's stuck." (21/05/2013)

Latvijas Avize - Latvia

Russia shouldn't meddle in Latvia's affairs

Moscow is calling on the EU to exert pressure on Latvia and Estonia to defend the interests of their Russian-speaking minorities. The national conservative daily Latvijas Avīze points out in annoyance that at the same time Moscow won't tolerate any interference with Russia's domestic policy: "So it's okay for Moscow to meddle in Latvia's and Estonia's domestic affairs. But if other states try to intervene in Russia's internal affairs it's completely unacceptable - just because Russia is Russia. The Russian foreign ministry knows very well that no one is discriminated against because of their origins in Estonia. The same rules apply for all its inhabitants, irrespective of ethnic, religious or other factors. And as far as the use of the Russian language in everyday life, the business world, culture or education is concerned: in Latvia and Estonia you can communicate more in Russian than in any other EU country." (22/05/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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Protagon.gr - Greece

Christos Chomenidis on fascism as a Greek youth trend

The Greek neo-fascist party Chrysi Avgi has approval ratings of over ten percent in current opinion polls, confirming it as the country's third-strongest party - despite the violent acts of some of its members. The Greek writer Christos Chomenidis describes on the web portal Protagon.gr how popular the party is among young people. "Chrysi Avgi is trendy. Thousands of youths, both girls and boys, are thrilled with the haircuts and the deeds committed by the guys in black shirts. They're thrilled at how they exude power and virility, and by their slogans of violence and intolerance. ... While the adults appear as superficial turncoats and founder in the mire of their contradictions, the young people succumb to the charm of the 'clear message' [of the neo-Nazis]. They join Chrysi Avgi's paramilitary groups and get a feeling for what it's like to be the catalysts and inheritors of the future. 'Tomorrow belongs to me', sang the blond representatives of the Hitler Youth in what is perhaps the most eerie scene in the film Cabaret." (21/05/2013)

ECONOMY

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Kauppalehti - Finland

EU must smash oil cartels

Investigators of the EU Commission carried out raids last week on several oil companies suspected of price fixing. The business paper Kauppalehti demands a clampdown: "The price cartel has presumably existed since 2002. If over 80 million barrels of oil are produced daily, a mark-up of just a couple of cents means several million dollars in additional revenues each day. The Commission can sentence the companies to huge fines, but that alone is not enough. The entire corrupt pricing mechanism must be revamped. And it must be seen to that such unfair practices aren't reintroduced later on. Those who pay for this fraud, the consumers, needn't count on getting compensation. But it would be some consolation to know that they don't pump additional euros into the cartel gamblers' pockets every time they tank up on petrol." (22/05/2013)

SOCIETY

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România Liberâ - Romania

Romanians love corrupt officials

The Romanian parliamentarian and owner of the record championship winning football club Steaua Bukarest, Gigi Becali, was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday by the country's High Court. He was found guilty of defrauding the government of just under 900,000 US dollars in a land swap in the 1990s. For the conservative daily România Liberă it's no wonder that Becali is still hugely popular in the country: "Why should it surprise us that Becali could do just as he pleased in this country? After all, he fulfils all the criteria for being loved by the majority: he's got money (and he stole it from the state - in Romania that's considered clever). He administers his own form of justice (an army of bodyguards does this for him). ... He gives charity to the poor and - very important: he has built churches. Is that not the Romanian ideal? Yes, it is! ... And soon someone else will conquer the hearts of the people and take Becali's place. Because we have an inexhaustible reserve of this kind of people." (22/05/2013)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Sweden's suburbs devoid of hope

Hundreds of youths have been setting cars and rubbish bins on fire and hurling stones at the police in the suburbs of Stockholm since Sunday. For the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter, the riots are a sign of helplessness on the part of politicians: "Some put the blame on social cuts and the fact that young people have no say in political decision making. However more has been invested in the districts and suburbs in question than in most other areas, and the democratic institutions are roughly the same wherever you go. Everyone has the possibility of getting politically involved, even if that might not be as exciting as masking your face under a street lamp. Nevertheless you've got to be very cynical indeed if you don't also think that 'something has to change, or something has to happen'. These areas are marked by segregation, an over-dependency on social welfare, unemployment and turbulent schools. That leads to a feeling of hopelessness - an excellent breeding ground for violence." (22/05/2013)

SPORT

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El Periódico de Catalunya - Spain

Mourinho goes, much to Spain's relief

José Mourinho, the controversial manager of Real Madrid, will leave the club at the end of the season, it was announced on Monday. This will do Spanish football good, the left-liberal daily El Periódico de Catalunya is convinced: "The end of the Portuguese manager's Madrid cycle can only be greeted positively by those who understand that in football - despite its status as big business - not all means are valid for the sake of winning and that there are limits that can't be overstepped. Mourinho has repeatedly overstepped them in his three years at the team's helm, which has made him very unpopular, even with the Real Madrid fans. The relief with which Spanish football has greeted the manager's barely disguised sacking is entirely understandable." (22/05/2013)

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