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Postup : 2015/0306(COD)
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Stadia projednávání dokumentu : A8-0201/2016

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PV 14/09/2016 - 15
CRE 14/09/2016 - 15

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PV 15/09/2016 - 11.5
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Středa, 14. září 2016 - Štrasburk Revidované vydání

15. Cestovní doklad pro návrat neoprávněně pobývajících státních příslušníků třetích zemí (rozprava)
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  Margrethe Vestager, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, thank you very much for this debate. Thank you to so many Members – Giegold, Lambert, Gomes, Cato Scott, Nunes, De Masi, Da Vito, Caputo, all of these colleagues, among others – for their support and encouragement, which are very much appreciated: the encouragement to do what we do, which is very basic – to enforce competition law and our State-aid rules so as to ensure fair competition.

A lot of you mentioned small and medium sized businesses. These are businesses who pay their taxes. These are businesses who contribute by taking apprentices. These are businesses where you do not find the same statistics – as I am quite sure that my colleague Pierre Moscovici has presented to you – as you see with multinationals in terms of tax burden and taxes being paid. If taxes are not being paid by some, then they have to be paid by others and that is why it is not fair competition when some Member States hand out selective benefits.

A lot of you have been asking about the rule of law and the legal basis. This goes back to the very beginning, because our founding fathers saw very clearly that you cannot have fairness and fair competition if rich Member States or decisive Member States hand out selective benefits to some companies which are not available to others. The courts have said very clearly that State aid can come in many forms – it can be a very cheap piece of land, a very favourable loan, a bundle of cash in your hand, a tax benefit. But State aid it is, because it lowers your costs and lower costs are a thing which is not available to your competitors.

Secondly, the court has also said very clearly, talking about SMEs, stand-alone businesses and multinationals, that when multinationals do what they of course need to do, intra-holding trading, then there should be a resemblance to market conditions. Because stand-alone companies, the small and medium-sized businesses who are on their own, they have to do their thing in the market. Therefore the court has several times committed to the fact that we should be fair and transparent.

This is also why, Mr Hayes, this cannot be a political decision. It is built on the rule of law, it is built on due process, and it will of course be tested by our courts because of the completely legitimate opportunity for Ireland to appeal. But the court will hear nothing about party politics or emotions or gut feelings. They want the facts of the case, the court practice, how the case has been decided previously, and that of course will be tested.

Talking about what guidance we can give, we have too little case practice now to make great guidelines, but we have started to give guidance and to discuss in our high-level State-aid forum how to make sure that Member States can work with this, because obviously it is the responsibility of the Member States to make sure that national tax legislation, which is 100% a national issue, is upheld at the same time as what we have decided in common in EU State-aid rules.

Bernd Lucke asked about why just now. Well, actually this is a very good example of why we need transparency because this case was only opened because of hearings in the US Senate. This was where data came out that enabled the Commission to get concerned that something may not be as it ought to be, that there was a risk of State aid being handed out.

Mr Kelly asked about retroactivity. No, this is exactly the way things are always dealt with. If a benefit is handed out as a selective benefit to a particular company, it has to be taken back. We do that with a 10-year perspective from the date we asked the first question. This tax ruling has been in place since 1998, but we do not go back the whole way. We do exactly as we used to do: maximum 10 years’ going back. It is not retroactivity. Not a single rule has been changed. The only secrecy here was the tax rulings and that is why unpaid taxes have to be paid, just as well as other selective benefits will have to be repaid if they are seen to be illegal State aid.

Last but not least, State-aid control cannot change tax legislation. If tax legislation is to be changed, it is done by the front door. It is either in the national parliaments, as done in Ireland a couple of years ago where the double Irish was done away with; or it is by unanimity in the Council of Ministers, and we do that by the front door to propose to ministers to make things easier. I am talking about the common corporate consolidated tax base. Not only will this make it more tricky for people to escape or to aggressively plan their taxation, but also it will make it much easier for small and medium-sized companies because they do not need to hire advisers in order to explain to them what they should be taxed on if they are active in more than one country, maybe just a few.

Sven Giegold asked about resources. What we are doing right now is trying to empower Member States to take as many State-aid decisions as possible themselves within the framework of the Treaty. I think we are up to 80 or 90% now, which frees up resources for us to look at the more tricky cases where you have a true cross-border issue and where fair competition is at stake.

I also, lastly, thank you for the encouragement to work within the OECD and the G20, because obviously this is a global matter. And obviously the highly qualified work done in the OECD to prevent base erosion and profit shifting is a cornerstone of what we can do in the future, because this is for all of us, and a global tax alliance is being formed in these years in order to ensure fair taxation, where everyone participates in paying their fair share, not more and not less, and where all the companies who pay their taxes to see that we have fair competition and that we are willing to work for it. Thank you very much for a very qualified and encouraging debate.

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