Callanan: EU summit should bring concrete results on energy prices and tax evasion

21-May-2013 @ 17:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Speaking in a debate in the European Parliament ahead of tomorrow’s European Council meeting, European Conservatives and Reformists group leader Martin Callanan said that the agenda contained two ‘worthy’ and ‘concrete’ issues – tax evasion and energy prices – that need concrete action to make Europe more competitive.
Speaking on tax evasion, he welcomed the focus on clamping down on illegal means, but said that cooperation should not be used as a cover for tax harmonisation, and that the best way to prevent tax fraud is to have a more competitive and simple tax regime.
As for energy, he called for a ‘thorough trawl’ through all EU policies with reform or repeal of those that exacerbate energy prices. These could range from climate policies like the ETS through to financial services legislation, which could impede private investment in infrastructure.
Mr Callanan also warned against a one-size-fits-all approach, and said that following the Greens down a road of closing off certain energy options would be ‘the sure way to make the lights go out in Europe.’

He said:
“Tomorrow’s European Council has a very worthy agenda and I welcome that for once our leaders are seeking to tackle concrete issues like tax evasion and energy prices; in contrast to the Commission who are wasting valuable resources on such worthy causes as banning reusable olive oil bottles. Rather than tackling a double dip recession they’re worried about double dipped bread.
“So whilst the summit has a worthy agenda, we need to see concrete results.
“On taxation issues, nobody can blame companies for wanting to look after share-holders’ capital by minimising their tax bill in a legal manner.
“However, Tax Research UK estimates that EU governments lose up to 1 trillion Euros each year because of tax fraud.
“At a time when finances are tight and taxpayers are squeezed, it’s only right that we crack down on those who pursue illegal means to avoid making any contribution to public coffers, and who put smaller competitors at a disadvantage.
“So I welcome David Cameron making this a priority for the UK’s G8 Presidency.
“Tackling tax evasion needs a globally coordinated approach to increase transparency and reporting, and agree new standards for information exchange.
“I hope that leaders make more progress than was made last week by Finance Ministers.
“Conversely, Member States could do more to help struggling businesses.
“Firstly by making tax codes simpler, but also by making our tax rates more competitive – to make it simpler to give the money to the government instead of indulging in a complicated process to hide it.
“But we should not confuse cooperation on tax evasion as acceptance that the EU should interfere in and harmonise taxation matters.
“It is frustrating that the Parliament reports being voted on today blur this line by calling for a common tax base, which is a prelude to harmonisation. Such matters are the prerogative of national governments and we should keep our hands off.
“Because, ultimately, if countries such as France want to pursue their ideological drive towards higher taxation then that should be their choice.
“All I ask is, in the interests of energy efficiency, will the last businessman to leave France please turn out the light before leaving?
“Which brings me to the other topic of the summit: energy.
“Because, unless we produce a clear energy policy lights will go out across the EU.
“Let’s not underestimate the consequences if we fail to grasp the growing problem of energy prices.
“For example, the German BDI predicts that the cost of electricity for German industrial users will be 110 Euros per Megawatt Hour by 2020, in the US it is 54 Euros per Megawatt Hour.
“It’s like asking our companies to compete with one hand tied behind their back.
“And we are condemning people on lower incomes to freezing cold homes.
“Now the solution is not easy, but I believe the first place to start is a thorough trawl through all EU policies – from climate policies like the ETS through to financial services legislation.
“If it has an inadvertent impact on energy prices, or prevents major infra-structure investment, then we should repeal or reform it.
“Because a Single Market in energy will only be created with enormous amounts of private sector capital for infrastructure that is currently not forthcoming.
“Secondly, I agree with Markus Beyrer from BusinessEurope who recently said that, “Europe doesn’t have an energy policy. It has a climate policy.”
“Tomorrow’s summit needs to correct this. It needs to have both, and they need to be complementary not contradictory.
“Because too often climate policies have pursued arbitrary targets and deindustrialisation. This serves only to destroy jobs and relocate energy-intensive industries to countries with little or no environmental standards. Neither good for our environment nor the economy or jobs.
“Yet whilst we look to create a stronger energy policy we must also avoid the EU’s tendency towards a one-size-fits-all approach. After all, a solar panel may be good for Spain or Greece but I have to say it would be completely useless in my constituency where the sun shines for half an hour a year.
“Instead we should leave flexibility to allow for what works in each country, whether that be micro-generation, renewables, nuclear, or shale gas.
“The sure way to make the lights go out in Europe would be to follow Danny Cohn-Bendit and, close off all avenues of energy production apart from wind and solar.
“Of course we could power a small town with the hot air that comes from Danny Cohn-Bendit in this Chamber.
“Presidents, you cannot grow an economy with expensive energy. Tomorrow’s summit needs to show people the EU can be about finding solutions to their problems, not just about grand plans for federal union. We look forward to concrete results.”
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