Slowly but surely MEPs are losing their patience. Almost a year ago, in July 2017, the European Parliament had adopted its position on the so-called public Country-by-Country Reporting. The aim was to make it more transparent, in which country multinational corporations generate their profits and how much tax they pay. Since its adoption by MEPs, the ball is now in the corner of the Member States. However, there is little tangible progress as individual countries apply delaying and blocking tactics.
In her contribution, Evelyn Regner (S&D), co-rapporteur of the European Parliament for the Directive on public Country-by-Country Reporting, once again summarized the main objectives of the initiative. The issue was about more transparency and public control by means of improved reporting duties and new accounting standards for major corporations.
On behalf of the European Parliament, which had already adopted its position to the issue with a broad majority on 4th July 2017, Regner called the representative of the current Bulgarian Presidency to account: “How do you explain these delays? Will agreement still be reached during this legislative period?” Taxpayers had the right to know how much tax multinationals such as Starbucks, Google and Co. would pay in individual EU countries.
The European Parliament would have the impression that the Council neither had a plan nor a concept. Instead, a fruitless debate on the legal basis would be used to delay and to block the proposal. “Banks and credit institutes already had to disclose their tax information; their reports are available to everyone online”, said Regner. “Why shouldn't this be possible in the case of all other multinationals?”
Minister Monika Panayotova declared on behalf of the Bulgarian Presidency that since the adoption by the European Parliament at the level of the Civil Servants in the Member States, 15 working meetings had taken place so far. In spite of this, important political issues had remained unsolved. For example, the legal basis of the proposal, would call the applicability of the ordinary legislative procedure, hence the European Parliament’s right to have a say, into question. The Council would need more time to clarify its own position.
Acting on behalf of the EPP, Jiří Pospíšil was not content with the reply of the Bulgarian Minister. The debate on the legal basis was only a smokescreen. It would be more honest to say that there were countries that were opposed to the entire proposal. However, these countries should then publically explain their stance to their voters.
Similar critical were the voices of the representatives of other political groups, among them Pascal Durand (Greens) and Kostas Chrysogonos (Left). Parliament had demanded progress for 2 years already; one could no longer kick the issue into the long grass. Citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises had to pay their taxes; the big players would shirk their responsibility. The Bulgarian Presidency had not even called a meeting. It should do so now and request a legal opinion; sitting it out was no solution.