PANA Bureau calls on Council to be more transparent about tax matters and money laundering
The leading members of the PANA committee call on the Council for more transparency on tax issues and to work with the Parliament in the fight against money laundering and tax evasion.
The chairs, vice-chairs and co-rapporteurs of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) call on the Council to become more transparent on taxation issues and to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the European Parliament in the fight against money laundering and tax evasion.
The PANA committee is tasked with investigating whether there have been any breaches or cases of maladministration of European law, especially the Anti-money Laundering Directive, the Directive on Administrative Cooperation and the Treaty Principle of Sincere Cooperation.
So far, one year into the mandate, the Committee has organised over 25 public hearings, missions, workshops and committee meetings in which it heard over 150 politicians, prosecutors, supervisors, investigators, journalists, lawyers, bankers, accountants, representatives of NGO’s and academics.
The powers of the Committee - dating from 1995 - are rather limited as compared to national inquiry committees. The Lisbon Treaty conferred on Parliament the power to propose and adopt a binding regulation on the inquiry rules. However, a proposal put forward by Parliament during the last parliamentary term met with opposition from both Council and Commission.
Despite the fact that we cannot force organisations or people to cooperate, most of the invitees accepted our invitations. In addition to speaking to our Members, many of the participants provided written answers to the questions which were sent to them on forehand. For example, 25 out of 28 Member States have responded to a detailed questionnaire to their Finance and Justice Ministers that was sent to them by our chairman, Dr Werner Langen. Only Malta, Hungary and Denmark haven’t replied so far.
Nonetheless, the role of the Council - the institution representing the Member States - has been disappointing so far. From the very start of our work, the Council has contested our Committee’s right of inquiry and our mandate.
The Council has refused to submit any documents to the European Parliament, despite repeated requests. It also prevents the European Commission from disclosing documents to our Members and if the Commission hands over documents - which can only be read in a secure reading room and cannot be reflected in our report - most of the texts turn out to have been redacted (marked black).
Also the Chair of the Code of Conduct on Business Taxation of the Council rejected our invitation to a hearing, arguing the work of the Council’s informal working group does not fall within the PANA mandate.
And over the last half year, the Maltese Council Presidency categorically declined our invitations, also arguing it has no role in relation to our mandate. We would like to note that Malta is one of the three countries that have not submitted any response to our questionnaire for which the deadline was set in mid-January.
This non-transparent attitude from the side of another EU Institution not only leaves us in the dark. Until today also the EU citizens have no possibility to know the positions of Member States - not even of their own - on important tax files in Europe.
In a time in which citizens require to be informed about decisions that directly concern them, we call on the Council for greater transparency, to get over its reluctance and to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the European Parliament on clamping down on tax evasion and money laundering. Our citizens expect this from us and the Council should not be taken hostage by a small group of Member states which have no interest in becoming transparent.
Werner LANGEN (EPP, DE), chair
Ana GOMES (S&D, PT), 1st vice-chair
Pirkko RUOHONEN-LERNER (ECR, FI), vice-chair
Fabio DE MASI (GUE-NGL, DE), vice-chair
Eva JOLY (Greens, FR), vice-chair
Jeppe Kofod (S&D, DK), co-rapporteur
Petr JEŽEK (ALDE, CZ), co-rapporteur