Given the sensitivities of qualified majority voting (QMV) in tax matters, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) supports the European Commission's ambition to kick-start a debate on how to reform decision-making in EU tax policy.
During the plenary session in July, the members of the Committee, who represent employers', workers' and various social, occupational, economic and cultural organisations of the 28 EU Member States, discussed a Commission's communication that proposes a debate on gradually changing the decision-making process for certain areas of shared EU taxation policy from unanimity to qualified majority voting, by using the so-called "passarelle clause" (Art. 48 (7) of the Treaty on European Union). Despite differences in views among its members, the EESC agreed on a common stance and adopted its opinion, which had been requested by the European Commission.
In the opinion, the Committee states that taxation policy in general and combating tax fraud in particular must remain a priority for the next European Commission. In this line, the EESC endorses a debate on gradually shifting to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure in tax matters, while recognising that all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Moreover, the Committee believes that any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and that certain conditions need to be met to successfully implement QMV.
EESC member Juan Mendoza Castro from Spain, representing the EESC Workers' Group, said in this regard:
In the past, the Committee has, in other opinions already, indicated of its support for changing the unanimity rule and that it is open to a qualified majority approach. We think there is a need for a wider process to possibly progress towards a more effective qualified majority voting in taxation.
In the Committee's view, this process would take time and must be in line with other policy initiatives. In that sense, the EESC points out the necessity of:
- A sufficiently strong EU budget;
- Better coordinated economic policy;
- A substantial analytical work assessing to what extent current tax measures have been insufficient.
EESC rapporteur Krister Andersson from Sweden, representing the EESC Employers' Group, highlighted another requirement for a successful implementation of QMV:
We must take into account that tax policy has always been closely linked to the sovereignty of Member States. The ultimate objective of any new rule must thus be an advantageous outcome both at the EU level and at the level of each individual Member State. The recent adoption of anti-tax avoidance measures has shown that Member States are willing to enhance transparent and fair tax competition.
Moving away in taxation from unanimity voting with a special legislative procedure to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure should be considered and debated, as the former may increasingly appear as politically anachronistic, legally problematic and economically counterproductive.
EESC rapporteur Mihai Ivașcu from Romania, representing the EESC's Diversity Europe Group, explained the EESC position:
The unanimity rule in taxation made sense in the 1950s, with six Member States. Now with 28, it makes it more difficult to reach any compromise at all and to tackle economic and financial challenges. Since taxation impacts on other EU policy priorities, it is essential for many of the EU's most ambitious projects. In the future, with an adoption of QMV, the European Parliament would play an important role in tax matters.
The Committee recommends that when decided, the four proposed steps should be implemented gradually and the European Commission should perform an evaluation after each implementation.
With this opinion, the EESC aims to support opening up further debate on this issue.