by Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council
Every year around one trillion euro is lost in EU Member States because of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
To give you an idea. One trillion euro is about the same as the entire GDP or total income of Spain, the fifth biggest economy of the European Union. It is about the same as the Union’s budget for the full seven years ahead. And it is one hundred times more than the loan that was recently agreed for Cyprus.
Tax evasion is unfair to citizens who work hard and pay their share of taxes for society to work. It is unfair to companies that pay their taxes – but find it hard to compete because others don’t. And tax evasion is a serious problem for countries that need resources to restore sound public finances.
The current economic crisis only helps to stress the urgent need for fair and effective tax systems. We simply cannot afford nor tolerate tax complacency.
That’s why the European Council discussed the question of fraud and fight against tax havens in our March meeting. And that’s why I have decided to put it on the agenda of our next meeting of the European Council on the 22nd of May. We must seize the increased political momentum to address this crucial problem.
Let us be clear. It is first and foremost for Member States to act. But Member States cannot effectively do it on their own or in isolation. Tax evasion is to a large extent a cross-border problem that reveals our inter-dependence and therefore needs cross-border solutions. Not only in Europe but also globally.
It is in this context that I welcome the important new political signals coming from many European countries, on tackling tax evasion head-on, and addressing bank secrecy. And the European Commission has already put ideas on the table.
I look forward to the European Council in May, where we will discuss how to take these important issues forward – at EU level certainly, but also ahead of important meetings of the G8 under British presidency and of the G20.
To tackle this problem, in all our countries and globally, Europe must speak with one voice. The European Council will play its role.
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About: European Movement UK
The origins of the European Movement
The origins of the European Movement lie in the aftermath of the Second World War. More than eight hundred delegates from across Europe gathered in The Hague in May 1948, under the chairmanship of Sir Winston Churchill, to create a new international movement to unite Europe and prevent further wars between its members. The British section of the European Movement was founded a year later.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the European Movement put forward the arguments for joining the European Economic Community, and it ran a major campaign in the early 1970s, both among the general public and in parliament, to win the battle for entry. In 1975, during the referendum on membership, the European Movement played a central role in the YES campaign. Other campaigns since then have included pressing for direct elections to the European Parliament in the 1970s and promoting the benefits of the single market in the run-up to 1992.
During the 1990s, the organisation became revitalised around the need to create a new national pro-European coalition. The rise in anti-European feeling threatens to undermine Britain's place in the European Union; our exclusion from the first wave of countries joining the euro is an example of how we lose out when the pro-European case is not put strongly enough in public.
Aims and activities
The European Movement is
- A rallying point: The European Movement rallies all those who believe that European unity is vital where the peoples of Europe have interests in common such as increased trade to improve economic prosperity, an improved environment to tackle climate change, and action to combat global poverty. A politically united Europe is needed to sweep aside the petty tribalism that has historically, at the very least, been an obstacle to progress or, at its worst, has led to bitter conflict and a catastrophic loss of human life. Europe must be united as a region of law, justice and democracy, equipped with the institutions capable of achieving these ends. Members receive a regular newsletter, euromove, with information and news about Pro-European developments. In addition, the office publishes updates on campaign ideas and issues an e-mail newsletter, e-News. Members take part in lively discussions in person and online, and the European Movement maintains an informative website.
- A campaign: The Movement has since its creation in 1948 sought to build and maintain public support for the unity of Europe. In the face of a backward-looking nationalist resurgence in some quarters, this role is as vital as ever. The campaigns include public information points, working with the media, and lobbying MPs and other decision-makers. In addition to the work of the London office, the branches and national councils organise campaign activities in their own areas, as well as political discussions and social events for members.
- A pressure group: The creation of the European Union has been an extraordinary achievement - democratic, sovereign states have created a common institutional framework in order to forge a future together based on the rule of law. But the European Movement is not the Union's information service or an apologist for its weaknesses. It must work to win support for the reforms necessary to improve its ability to meet the hopes and aspirations of its peoples.