9 EU states want a Financial Transaction Tax

European Union
European Union (Photo credit: ana branca)

Nine Eurozone members want the Danish Presidency of the EU to speed up its work on a directive on a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). While there is much opposition within the Eurozone and wider EU to such a tax, the nine countries intend to use the community method to allow them to use the EU institutions to set up and administer the tax and allow other countries to join while not holding them back.

The nine countries are:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Portugal

The inclusion of Greece and Portugal is interesting as they are in receipt of an IMF/ECB/EU Bailout while Italy and Spain haver been teetering on the edge for some time.

There is opposition to an EU wide tax mainly from the UK and Sweden with Poland and Ireland also voicing unease about the plans, so do not expect these countries to join up any time soon.

The letter comes at a time during the French Presidential Election where Nicolas Sarkozy has placed a lot of faith in such a tax to win votes at home and is of course implementing the tax in France with or without the other eight countries.

Taxation remains an unanimous decision at the Council of Ministers under the Treaty of Lisbon, so even if one country opposes there will not be an EU wide tax on financial transactions.

Presidency won’t hold back the Commission

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EUBusiness is reporting that the fact that Hungary is the current holder of the rotating EU Presidency will not hold them back from launching proceedings if the new media law is found to be in breach of Community Law.

“If there’s an infringement of community law, the Commission will launch proceedings and the fact Hungary presides the European Union will have no bearing,” Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

Bailly said EU legal experts would scrutinise the media law once they had received the translation.

“At this stage we are in talks with the Hungarian government and following clear procedures,” he said.

“But either it is in compliance with community law or there are doubts on its compliance and the Commission meets to decide to launch proceedings with a letter of warning,” he added

The entire Commission will be in Budapest on Thursday to meet with the Hungarian government, and more then likely these new media laws will come up either during the meeting or on the side of it.

It will be interesting to see where this will lead. It could definitely drag on through the entire 6 month presidency!

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Hungary Digging in its Heels

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It was has not been a great start to its Presidency, Hungary is now digging its heels in response to criticism of its controversial media law.

“It isn’t necessary to change a Hungarian law just because it is subject to criticism from abroad,” Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for communication, told national radio.

“Before criticising, let’s wait and see how this law works. We are confident it will be up to the task,” he added.

Source

This and the fact that it hasn’t been fully translated into English are the reasons that the Hungarian Government have not responded to EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes letter from before Christmas.

This is despite criticism from home and abroad of the new law. France stated that the new law was “incompatible with the application of a certain idea of the freedom of the press, endorsed by all the European treaties.”

The largest Daily newspaper in Hungary Nepszabadsag, declared on its front page “The freedom of the press in Hungary comes to an end,” in the 27 languages of the EU.

This issue isn’t going away on the Hungarians, they may want to look at the law again or else find their Presidency being distracted by it.

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Hungary’s new censorship laws.

Trainride to Hokkaido 06 - Freedom of Speech
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On the 1st of January a new era will dawn on Hungary. It will take over the Presidency of European Council for the first time and a new law on media freedom will come into effect.

While the first thing is something for Hungarians to celebrate, the law on the other hand is not. It has been criticised by the OSCE Media freedom representative who wrote in a report that “Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies” and “Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression.”

Freedom House set the law was “a major setback for press freedom in Hungary”.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said “The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties” and “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.”

A good reference of this is Article 11 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the EU which states

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also deals with this, which Hungary also party to

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The law which was proposed by the Fidesz party who won the general election back in April, have used their power to appoint party supporters to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).

This is a clear breach of media freedoms. The Hungarian Government will stifle free speech with this law, as to actually appeal one must pay the fines.

The fines are roughly €720,000 for TV and Radio Stations, €90,000 for newspapers and €36,000 for news websites. This could easily bankrupt any media that may be opposed to the government.

I am supporting bloggingportal.eu’s campaign to raise awareness of this law and lodge my opposition to this law.

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