BRUSSELS, Belgium — THE European Commission backed plans by 10 EU nations to launch a hotly contested “Robin Hood” financial transactions tax expected to raise billions for the public purse yesterday.
After plans to launch the tax across the European Union were scuttled during months of raucous debate by Britain and others, the EU executive proposed that 10 countries in favour, including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, go ahead on their own.
“A core group of member states are keen to move ahead with a common FTT... And I applaud this,” said the European Union’s taxation commission Algirdas Semeta.
“I firmly believe that an EU FTT has great benefits to offer... I also believe that now is the right moment to move ahead with it. Because in difficult times, fairness matters.”
Proponents of a transactions tax, which has its roots in the 1970s, believe it will help curb the culture of greed that led to the 2008 global financial crisis and ensure a bailed out industry pays its fair share.
“This is a once in a generation chance to ease the burden on European citizens,” said Oxfam spokesman Nicolas Mombrial. “Countries which have not signed up should do so or risk finding themselves on the wrong side of history”.
While Britain has loudly opposed the introduction of a transactions tax in fear it would hit the City of London, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia have all signed on to the scheme.
The Commission said in a statement that all the legal conditions to impose an FTT had been met, and that it believed the tax would not undermine the workings of the European single market which seeks to ensure a level playing field for all.
“This tax can raise billions of euros of much-needed revenue for member states in these difficult times,” said Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.
“We need to ensure the costs of the crisis are shared by the financial sector instead of shouldered by ordinary citizens.”
The introduction of the FTT by a small group of nations was made possible through rarely used EU powers of “enhanced cooperation”, enabling a minimum of nine nations — one-third of the 27 member states — to trailblaze new legislation.