The finance ministers of nine eurozone governments have called for a tax on financial transactions to be introduced as soon as possible – raising the prospect that a group of countries might push through legislation by themselves rather than waiting for consensus throughout the European Union.
The ministers of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain sent a letter to the government of Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers, on Tuesday (7 February), urging it to put the European Commission’s proposal for a financial-transaction tax (FTT) on a fast track for a deal by the end of June.
The ministers said that they held a “strong belief” in the need for such a tax at European level because it would ensure “a fair contribution from the financial sector to the costs of the financial crisis” and would “better regulate European financial markets”.
That there are nine governments signing the letter is significant because nine is the minimum number of member states required in order to use the ‘enhanced co-operation’ mechanism that permits a group of EU member states to introduce legislation.
It has always been unlikely that all member states would consent to a plan at EU level, particularly given the fierce opposition of the Swedish and British governments.
A spokesperson for François Baroin, France’sfinance minister, said that the letter was “a very powerful signal showing that the heart of the eurozone is determined to push the matter forward”.
The group of nine states includes the four biggest economies in the eurozone – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – but does not include the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which have significant financial-services industries.
The Commission made its proposal for a transaction tax in September, envisaging a minimum tax rate for the trading of bonds and shares of 0.1%, and 0.01% for derivative products. Member states would be free to apply higher rates.
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