European politicians back Robin Hood Tax
There’s been a week of activity on the Robin Hood Tax with a European flavour, and more to come next week. First, the European Parliament passed a resolution on implementing financial transactions taxes (FTTs). Second, the German and British trade union movements called on their country’s leaders to back a Europe-wide FTT at the European Summit later this month. And third, next week will see a major European conference on FTTs in Brussels.
The European Parliament vote on Wednesday was overwhelming, with 536 votes in favour compared with just 80 against. The resolution was, admittedly, not a decision to implement an FTT, but it was definitely worded positively, and the most important thing about it was that it was a compromise between committed supporters like the Greens and the Socialists & Democrats, and open-minded Liberal Democrats and the European People’s Party. Only the dinosaur tendency – outright opponents of Europe taxing anything or climate change sceptics – were opposed. The TUC General Secretary commented, as did Party of European Socialists’ leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen MEP.
On Friday, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and DGB President Michael Sommer wrote to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking them to show leadership in proposing an EU-wide FTT – which could raise as much as €100 billion a year – at the forthcoming European Spring Summit (25-26 March, in Brussels). The Austrian Government is already committed to this, and so now are the Belgians – and that’s important because they take over the EU Presidency in July, giving them a key role in setting the agenda for the European Union.
On Monday, the Europeans for Financial Reform – which brings together unions, politicians and NGOs at European level – will hold a major conference in Brussels on FTTs, with Green and Socialist MEPs on board. That will be the springboard for the Europe-level campaign, and I’ll be blogging from the event.
It’s an outside chance that the EU itself will be able to introduce an FTT – although there is a clause in the EU’s new Lisbon Treaty that would allow it – but critically, EU-wide co-ordination and consensus could make it easier to introduce sterling and euro currency transactions taxes (as the UK Government could do for sterling in this month’s budget), and it would be a powerful impact on the IMF who will report on the issue in April to G20 Finance Ministers.