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Green Observatory: Tax Injustice

The Panama Papers and Lux Leaks have exposed the fact that tax regimes in Europe disproportionately benefit big businesses, with multi-nationals routinely avoiding paying exorbitant amounts in tax revenue to EU governments while the burden falls on ordinary citizens. In light of this, the Green European Journal asked experts, activists and Green politicians active in this field around Europe about the impact of these revelations in their national contexts, and for a sense of the debate about what it means to have a fair tax regime.

  1. Belgium
  2. Croatia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Finland
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Greece
  8. Ireland
  9. Poland
  10. Slovenia
  11. Spain

Belgium – Kim Fredericq-Evangelista

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

The question of companies avoiding taxes, due to fiscal optimisation, has been extensively debated in Belgium in the past few months. The debate emerged in part due to a number of leaks that were published lately (HSBC/Swiss Leaks, LuxLeaks, OffShore Leaks), but also because the European Commission concluded that selective tax advantages granted by Belgium under its “excess profit” tax scheme are illegal under EU state aid rules; adding that around €700 million was to be recovered from 35 multinational companies.

The Belgian government made an appeal against this decision arguing that it would represent a severe blow to the fiscal credibility of the country and claiming that the “rules were changed in the middle of the game”. Moreover, it claimed that Belgium is a small open economy and must therefore use some specific tax niches to attract foreign firms.

In the meantime, a big part of the population was outraged that the government was making severe social spending cuts and, while refusing to take corporate taxes from big companies.

It didn’t come as a surprise for many Belgians, and for the Green party, when the European Commission labelled Belgium a “tax haven” second only to the Netherlands in term of structures of aggressive tax planning. Corporate tax in Belgium is currently based on a narrow tax-base system with high rates and a multitude of tax exemptions. These create a gap between the theoretical rate (33%) and the effective rate (23%) and have the effect of making the system particularly complex and favouring companies that have the means to do tax engineering (multinationals and large companies), to the detriment of small businesses; not to mention the huge cost it represents for the public finances.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

Belgian civil society is increasingly opposed to tax havens and the subject is more than mature for political action. The Belgian government has been working on a simplification of the corporate tax code for months but with no result so far.

The Green Party has been lobbying for years for reform and for the simplification of corporate tax codes. Moreover, it made a concrete proposition a few months ago to scrap ineffective tax cuts. In this proposition, we insist on the necessity for the simplification of tax rules, the introduction of a common corporate tax base in Europe, individual country reporting, and increased transparency.

This does not mean that common corporate tax rate (or taxes) must be levied on the European level. Instead the Greens would propose that the taxation takes place in the country where the economic transaction is made. That would leave less space for companies’ aggressive tax planning, such as profit rulings, allowances for Corporate Equity (another questionable tax exemption available in Belgium), and price transfers.

That said, I feel that the Belgian population is rather divided on the practical effectiveness of the fight against tax havens. People realise that tax havens are to be fought on a supranational level, but they also know that in practice this is problematic. They see that many steps have been taken, but the resources and the creativity of rich tax-avoiding companies seem limitless.

Croatia – Vladimir Cvijanovic

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

These issues are poorly understood in Croatia; let alone their implications and effects on fairness, inequality, and socio-economic development. Moreover, the understanding of political processes and the EU policy cycle is still fragmented and incomplete. Hence, the issues of tax evasion and tax fraud in Europe are only noticeable in Croatia when major revelations and scandals are reported. In addition to some media, the most active person in this regard is Davor Škrlec, Croatian MEP and a member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

The reasons behind the silence on these topics can generally be traced back to two factors: firstly, there has been a belated transition from market-based socialism to crony capitalism, while macroeconomic policy has been ill-suited for socio-economic development; and additionally, since Croatia is still a newcomer in the EU, both policymakers and the citizens need time to understand the implications of the new political context. Secondly, the Croatian taxation system relies primarily on taxes on consumption and payroll taxes, whereas corporate tax accounts for only a small proportion of the government’s budget.To change this perception, Croatian NGOs and civil society need to become more active, and act as watchdogs of the government and corporations. Moreover, Green and left-wing parties (who are currently not in parliament) should be keen to stay on top of things and tirelessly work on educating the general public and communicating with their (potential) constituencies.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level? 

Progressive economic policy ideas are marginalised in public discussions and in both Green and left-wing political movements in Croatia. Fiscal policy has almost only been discussed in the context of fiscal tightening due to the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact.

There have been some discussions on the possibility of Croatia joining the European Monetary Union (EMU) and even a potential fiscal union. However, while the former issue used to be hotly debated among experts weighing the pros and cons of the EMU, the costs and benefits of a potential fiscal union are much harder to grasp. They therefore remain outside the focus of political parties.

If properly designed, fiscal union would help to not only reform the public finance management, but also to stimulate the right policy impulses in Croatia. In a context of serious deterioration of the social conditions of the wider population, there is an investment gap that has widened due to a prolonged crisis. A way out of this situation can only be found if the state is not forced to save more than it already does i.e. if social and other investments are stimulated.

Czech Republic – František Nejedlý

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

The issue of tax avoidance and tax evasion of multinationals is quite a new topic in the Czech political debate, as thus far the discussion around taxes has been driven mainly by the issue of tax rates or VAT tax avoidance in the past. Also, the issue of tax havens has been connected mainly with corruption and money laundering scandals, rather than with the aggressive tax policies of certain companies.

The Panama Papers or Apple’s tax scandal have somewhat sensitised the population to tax avoidance, but the current Czech finance minister Mr. Andrej Babiš (leader of the centre-right ANO movement) is reluctant to support progressive corporate tax policies on the EU level. This has become obvious with the Czech government’s rejection of the idea of a public register of beneficial owners.

We can expect that the issue of anti-tax avoidance policies will gain momentum as a public discussion starts on the European Commission’s Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base proposal. Although the existing research shows that the Czech Republic would strongly benefit it was implemented properly, the position of the Ministry of Finance is dismissive again, even raising the question of a possible threat to the country’s national sovereignty.

Fortunately, it seems that the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats (both coalition partners) are not on the same line as Mr. Babiš, so we can expect a lively debate in the Czech tax policy arena.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level? 

There is an ongoing debate within the Czech Greens concerning tax harmonisation and fiscal union in the EU. Greens are very supportive of increasing the coordination of tax policies at the European level.

This is perceived as a logical and necessary step in the pursuit of economic development, in Europe and elsewhere, for two reasons. On one hand, we can clearly see that EU Member States are no longer able to tackle some areas of tax avoidance by themselves, and on the other hand, there are EU Member States developing harmful tax policies and benefiting from unfair tax competition in the EU.

At the end of the day, it is the citizens who are losing the most from the practice of tax avoidance. Also to be noted, is that there is a strong public understanding that this policy area, particularly the issue of taxes, is a very technical one, and it needs to be assessed to ensure that new policies will not create new loopholes.

What we can see as well is a growing number of Czechs who perceive the tax avoidance of multinational companies as something that needs to be addressed. According to the public survey of the polling agency Median, 38% of Czechs believe that tax avoidance through tax havens is a very serious threat. The European Union should take this as a motivation to really push for tax cooperation in Europe. It is an opportunity to show to European citizens that the EU can deliver.

Finland – Ville Ylikahri

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

The public perception of taxation in Finland is very positive. Most of the people think that high taxation is a good thing and an important component of the Finnish welfare state model; thus, they see tax evasion as a threat to this model. There hasn’t been much discussion about back taxes of Apple and other big companies, but Panama papers and Lux Leaks got a lot of attention. Finnish companies and individuals, however, have avoided major scandals concerning tax evasion.

The Green party in Finland has been one of the most active forces keeping tax evasion on the table. There is a whole chapter about tax evasion in the party’s political programme for the year 2014: it states that the party wants more openness and exchange of information between countries and for companies to report their profits country by country.

The Green party is fighting tax evasion from its opposition position, as the Finnish government is right-wing and very business-friendly. The Greens have repeatedly accused them of not taking the issue of tax evasion seriously enough. The Government, for example, wanted to make it legal to own securities (tradable financial assets) anonymously through a nominee register; Greens, however, have opposed this fiercely and now it seems that Finland will not open the possibility for a nominee register.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

The Greens in Finland support tax harmonisation and stronger fiscal union, even though the political landscape in Finland and in Europe is not favourable to these kinds of ideas. The party’s 2014 political programme states the need to broaden the mission of the European Central Bank to support demand and employment; increase the transparency of the financial market and of the Member States’ economies; develop tax coordination between Member States and adapt minimum standards for taxes; and levy taxes on the financial sector (such as a bank tax and a transaction tax).

However, in the current political landscape there is no real discussion of a fiscal union. Many people in Finland think that the country has suffered from being a member of the eurozone (while Sweden is doing so much better economically outside the euro). The public opinion in Finland has also opposed support packages to Portugal and Greece; these packages were one of the main reasons the right-wing populist party True Finns gained so many votes in the elections in 2011 and 2015.

France – Eva Sas

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement?

It is true that recent revelations, such as the ‘Luxleaks’ or the ‘Panama Papers’ had given extra visibility to political movements that were fighting for decades against tax havens and tax evasion, but I think the actual turning point on those issues – at least in France – came somewhat earlier – following the global economic crisis of 2008, when governments got indebted by saving the banking system. Back then, many citizens started to understand that corporations were not playing by the rules, and were hiding their benefits to avoid taxes.

During the presidential and legislative bids of 2012, France elected a new progressive majority that proposed to improve our laws against tax evasion. It did a lot during those five years, even if it have not succeeded on all matters. It started to impose country-by-country reporting standards for banks with the banking law of 2013, and fought against tax evasion of our rich citizens (with the help of the international negotiation of the OECD on the automatic Exchange of Information). Since 2013, it has retrieved 26 billion euros from off-shore banking.

More recently, in 2016, we have extended the public country-by-country reporting to multinational corporations. But unfortunately, the French constitutional committee has put a veto on this disposition arguing it was against the principle of “liberté d’entreprendre”(entrepreneurial freedom).

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

While fighting for more fiscal justice at the national level, I think that tax dumping cannot end without the European harmonisation of tax policies. In the French National Assembly, the government often used the EU as an excuse to not improve our laws against tax evasion – implying that doing so would lead to disadvantages for the French economy or would drive away foreign investments in France.

But with that kind of thinking, no country will take the necessary steps for tax justice.

EELV, the French ecologist party, is pro-European. It strongly supports the European Commission’s initiative to implement the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), and we are also waiting for a fast conclusion on enhanced cooperation on the issue of a European financial transaction tax.

But since most of the economic policy tools are already being decided at the European level (control by the European commission of the Member States’ fiscal policies with the European Semester, or monetary policy with the European Central Bank), I think that we have to make a comprehensive harmonisation, that is not only focused on tax matters, but also on social and environmental issues.

It will be a long and difficult process, but it’s the only way to stop dumping practices within the EU and to show that Europe can be efficient in improving social and fiscal justice, and put us on a path towards sustainable development.

Ireland – Mark Dearey

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

In a documentary on primetime TV, the last IMF mission chief to Ireland, Ashoka Mody, stated that by any measure Ireland is a wealthy country, and therefore “it is time for Ireland to grow up” and abandon low tax regimes and one-off tax avoidance arrangements. This is something the Irish Greens have been saying for a long time. Therefore, we warmly welcomed Commissioner Margarethe Vestager’s finding on the Apple tax deal negotiated in 1990 between the corporation and the Revenue Commissioners, and have opposed our Government’s decision to challenge it.

We say that Ireland now needs to acknowledge that deals were done back in 1990 when our economy lagged far behind the EU mean, and that it is not acceptable to continue engaging in low or no tax arrangements in return for jobs. Mody’s “grow up” comment was particularly striking in my view, because it’s a truth that has not been spoken as clearly before. Instead the attempt to conflate the Apple finding with an attack on our ability to determine our CP (commercial profits) tax rate has deliberately muddied the waters and led public opinion to view the Commission as attacking Ireland’s sovereign powers, a potent accusation after the bail-out years.

Our economy is too dependent on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). There is a paralysis in thinking around how to fashion a less dependent economy, but we in the Green party use every opportunity to present the Green economy as the solution to Ireland’s problems.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

This is a sensitive matter. We are a peripheral country and even more so since Brexit.

The danger is that an overbearing approach on fiscal union could easily drive Irish opinion and policy making into the Anglo-American axis. One of my great concerns around Brexit is that our geography alone will mean that the allure of transatlanticism will grow, and therefore Europe must not feed that impulse but rather provide Ireland with the mechanisms to reconfigure the economy and ensure future prosperity while steering a course to harmonisation.

Harmonisation, if it is not to be seen as an attack on our commercial profit rate, needs redistributive mechanisms. If these mechanisms are in place, it may be possible for Ireland to conceive of itself as a country with a sustainable and balanced economic model.

If there is one thing ordinary people agree on, it’s that the wealth provided by Apple or, for instance, Paypal in my own home town won’t be here for ever. Thus, a sustainable model is something that people would welcome…

Germany – Steffen Brunner

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

In terms of corporate taxation, we still live in a Hobbesian state of nature. Brexit could considerably worsen the fight of all against all in Europe and beyond. Tax rates on corporate profits and top incomes have been in decline for many years. And it’s not only foreign companies like Apple and Zara who bend the rules beyond recognition. Look at German chemical giant BASF which has built up a perfidious system to avoid taxes.

As green MEP Sven Giegold revealed, BASF has smuggled €923 million past tax authorities in Europe. German citizens are pretty angry about this but powerful individuals and corporations continue to profit from the unfair system. People feel helpless and increasingly turn their backs on the ‘establishment’. Their anger has propelled Great Britain out of the Union and Donald Trump into the White House. Tax avoidance schemes, such as the patent box regime in the Netherlands and notional interest deduction in Belgium, continue to undermine our social welfare systems. BASF has successfully lobbied against enhanced transparency in the tax system – in the EU and also in the German parliament, the Bundestag. With its continued resistance against international tax transparency, the German Christian Democrats help to cement the trend of social erosion.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

The German Greens fight for stronger tax harmonisation. A minimum tax rate across Europe could help a great deal to mitigate harmful tax dumping and the danger of ever rising populism. National protectionism worsens all problems because it destroys cooperation in so many areas. Fighting tax dumping, climate change, and many other collective action problems requires more, not less cooperation.

Tax justice is about civilising globalisation. Either we as democrats fix the system or demagogues will destroy it.

Greece – Gregory Katsikaris

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

Tax issues occupy a significant part of the public discourse in Greece due to the planned or implemented reforms stemming from the EU’s financial assistance programmes. Peculiarly, though, public opinion seems to focus more on the over-taxation in Greece vis-a-vis the rest of the EU and the Economic Economic Area (EEA) and on the cases of tax avoidance by individuals (politicians and others) rather than on tax evasion cases by large multinational corporations. Cases like Zara, Apple etc, remain largely out of the scope of the public debate, as people are more preoccupied with domestic problems.

Over the last seven years, given the chronic dysfunctions of the Greek revenues system, there have been efforts by various Finance Ministers to control and monitor the capital flows from Greece towards other countries and to check whether the capital involved has been legally acquired – and thus taxed. In addition, there has been constant pressure on reviewing the tax exemptions granted to the shipping sector and the Orthodox Church.

These efforts have been largely perceived by the public opinion as superficial. There is a feeling of injustice towards the economic elites given the fact that many citizens have ‘exported’ their wealth to tax havens prior to the Greek sovereign debt crisis – wealth that was in some cases acquired by the embezzlement of public funds – while the average Greek person is over-taxed during one of the worst recessions documented in a developed economy.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

Greece has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the EU, as well as horizontal indirect taxes that are far above the EU average. The latter are considered socially unjust, as they affect all segments of the population without any income criteria, while the former are regarded as incompatible with growth and development targets. Thus, even parties that are placed on the left of the political spectrum, like the Greek Greens or SYRIZA, integrate in their political vocabulary the demand for lower corporate tax rates.

In this context, the Green movement in Greece holds the conviction shared not only by the left, but also by other progressive forces, of supporting a general tax reform plan for the whole EU. However, since Greece, amongst others, has been hit by the inability of the EU institutions to act in a swift and resolute way in the wake of the debt crisis, talks of tax harmonisation are intertwined with the question of expanded economic integration, including budgetary unification and the issue of common bonds for the Eurozone.

Unfortunately, the wider population is not involved in this debate, as the discourse seems contained solely to academics and some members of the political elite. A coherent, modern platform on tax harmonisation that would be propagated at the Union level and could also rejuvenate the Green movement in Greece, is still absent.

Poland – Adam Ostolski

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement? 

As Greens, we may be tempted to presume that international scandals involving tax havens would naturally lead to the conclusion that we need a stronger Europe to fight tax injustices. For many, however, this is far from obvious. In Poland, revelations concerning tax avoidance and tax evasion do not tend to be followed by political mobilisations in favour of a closer European cooperation in this area. The public debate in the wake of the Panama Papers focused on tracing “Polish threads” rather than calling for a systemic reform. Discussions on the TV revolved around naming Polish businessmen and politicians involved, as well as speculating whose names would surface next. The problem was described in terms of individual guilt – or, perhaps, individual cunning. The documents disclosed were thus mostly used to feed a gossip column of sorts.

In contrast with the previous term, after the election in 2015 there has been no left-of-centre party in the parliament. Outside of the parliament, Green and left-wing political forces (Green Party, Partia Razem, Initiative Poland) tried to use the leak as an opportunity to speak out in favour of tax justice and better European cooperation. But no parliamentary political force spoke of this, and neither was the topic taken up by new political movements like the Committee for the Defence of Democracy. Thus, it did not make its way to the political agenda. Meanwhile Euro-sceptic commentators used the tax scandals to build the case against the European Union, arguing that the EU was too weak to defend an allegedly “common” interest against the strongest ones. And the examples of countries like Ireland or Luxemburg were used as models of what rational states do: they are “cunning” rather than “naive,” and they tend to do what is best for them.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

During the previous term, between 2011 and 2015, both the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the left liberal Palikot Movement supported a Tobin tax and sponsored draft laws in this direction. In 2012, the Palikot Movement came forward with the proposal of an “anti-transferring package”: five draft laws aiming to prevent companies from transferring profits out of Poland. The law, they claimed, would save the budget no less than 50 billion zlotys (11,4 billion euros) in four years. Were any progressive political forces present in the parliament now, they would be able to put the question of international tax justice on the agenda. But while the parliamentary spectrum ranges from neoliberal centre to the far right, this is still far from the reality.

Outside of the parliament the situation is different. Especially for the Partia Razem (Together) tax justice, both domestic and international, is a specialité de la maison. Also, the European manifesto, adopted by the Green Party in March 2013, states that “Europe needs a more solid budget based on truly European taxes.” The Polish Greens want the EU budget to constitute between 10 and 20 percent of the European Union’s GDP in order “to ensure EU stability and an adequate level of redistribution between different regions.” The manifesto is not specific about what the source of revenue would be. Instead, it enumerates on what it should be spent on: first, to provide social protection on the EU level “ensuring all Europeans a minimum of social rights”); second, to fund research, in particular in the medicine and renewable energy sectors; and third, a just transition towards a low-carbon economy.

Slovenia – Joze Mencinger

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement?

In Slovenia, there has been some disillusionment with “Honest” Europe and its leaders, and anger towards a few Slovenian citizens who were caught by the revelations on tax havens. Most people, however, accept the reality that tax avoidance by multinationals is a normal part of foreign direct investment, which is often supported by the governments.

The Slovenian press is incessantly searching for scandals, therefore there have been articles of Slovenian citizens putting their money in tax havens, while the opposition was “distressed” to claim that the bad guys are from the other side of the political spectrum. The issue, however, was more or less forgotten in a week and there have been, no reactions by the authorities so far.

Indeed, most people do not know who EU Commissioner Margareth Vestager is and what she does, or tries to do. They also do not know much about tax competition and do not make a connection between fiscal competitive advantage and the wellbeing of citizens. The tax advantages given to companies by Ireland and particularly by Luxemburg, however, have been considered fraud and corruption; most people would thus accept the idea that multinationals should be punished in one way or another for their misbehaviour. But the citizens also refuse to accept the idea that the countries that gave these tax incentives (and thereby lost out on income) should be compensated for their loss in tax revenues. 

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

The Green party and movement in Slovenia has practically disappeared. Discussions on a proper fiscal union and tax harmonisation are very rare and academic only; the ideas are considered unrealistic in the present situation, in part due to the evident lack of any solidarity within the EU.

The existing “fiscal union” or fiscal pact with “fiscal efforts, golden rules, etc.” appears to be a device by which the more powerful countries impose their rules, but are not ready to share the burden that these rules put on weak countries. Thus, the perception of inequality among the countries has been growing. Many cases, particularly in the field of market protection and illegal state aid, substantiate this perception. Indeed, one cannot think of a proper fiscal union without being a transfer union and with a “federal” budget that is only at the level of 1 percent of GDP. Without changes of these two things, the reform boils down to wishful thinking.

Spain – Jose Ramón Becerra

In the wake of revelations that numerous companies, from Apple to Zara, have avoided paying tax revenue to EU governments, how is the issue of European tax havens perceived in your country and in your Green party or movement?

The tax evasion scandals in Spain and Europe have had a big impact on Spanish public opinion. This is because in the last few years there have been multiple cases of tax fraud through tax havens (mainly through banks in Switzerland) which have involved business leaders, high level politicians, and even the royal family.

With regards to the European countries that have offered preferential tax treatment to certain multinational companies, the Spanish public does not believe that the purpose of these advantages is to improve citizen wellbeing. Instead they consider it to be a ploy used by governments to attract economic activities which would otherwise not establish themselves there. For this reason, I believe that a fine for those multinationals that have benefitted from this activity would be positively viewed in Spain, even for those with their headquarters here, such as Zara.

In Spain there is a certain understanding of the factors that have led countries to adopting tax policies that favour big businesses, as in Ireland’s case. In fact, certain regions, like Madrid, are adopting policies with a similar purpose: to attract investments with the promise of paying less tax. However, it is not likely that this understanding will be enough for the citizens to accept the idea that countries who have given theses tax breaks should be compensated for their loss in tax revenue. In a way, they have already been compensated through the economic activity and jobs that the multinationals have created.

Are there discussions in your country and in your Green party/movement on the importance of a fiscal union or tax harmonisation at the European level?

At the moment, tax harmonisation in the European Union is not at the centre of political and economic debate. This is despite Spain being one of the countries that is most damaged by the tax engineering, or avoidance, practices of the big multinationals, whose subsidiary companies often avoid paying taxes in Spain due to their parent companies being located in other European countries.

In this way tax harmonisation in Europe would help us to avoid this form of tax evasion, and therefore the Spanish economy would be in a better competitive position relative to countries that use tax discounts as a tool to attract investment. In Spain, people see that investments are channelled to other countries, due to the tax advantages that are offered – this practice damages the national economy and drags down public confidence in the European project.

From the point of view of the Greens, tax harmonisation would be very positive for Spain, for two reasons: firstly, because it would mean that the competitiveness of the Spanish economy would cease to rely on having worse working conditions than in northern European countries. Secondly, because the Greens consider that greater tax incomes derived from the payment of taxes by multinationals in Spain could help to finance the Spanish economy’s transition towards a more modern and sustainable model. This is essential to make our economy more like those of the most advanced European countries.