The European Union has taken eight countries off its tax haven blacklist after they apparently took measures to “remedy” EU concerns about their approaches to tax dodging.
Panama, Barbados and Grenada were among states that fell off the list, which now numbers only nine nations – amid claims by campaigners that ministers were “undermining” the process.
The three countries, as well as South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Tunisia and the UAE, will now move onto a “greylist” of countries that the EU has concerns about but which it thinks are in the process of improving their approach.
Countries on the greylist can be moved back onto the blacklist if they fail to improve quickly enough, but this has not happened yet.
Fair tax campaigners reacted with dismay when the list was introduced late last year because of its narrow scope and omission of a number of notorious tax havens, including British overseas territories. On Tuesday, NGOs further hit out at the decision.
“The EU is rushing to take countries off the blacklist without it being clear what they have actually committed to improve; this is further undermining the process,” said Aurore Chardonnet, Oxfam’s EU policy adviser on tax and inequality.
“It is no secret that tax havens remain at the heart of the EU, with four European countries actually failing the EU’s own blacklisting criteria.
“EU governments should tackle tax havens within the EU with the same urgency they are pressuring other countries to adopt tax reforms that were decided by an exclusive club of rich countries.”
Markus Ferber, center-right MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s economic committee, said: “Today’s decision is a confession of failure. Crossing Panama, one of the world’s most prolific tax havens off the blacklist, is a disastrous sign in the fight against tax avoidance.”
The decision to remove the countries was made by EU finance ministers in Brussels when they met for their monthly Ecofin meeting.
Ministers agreed the move after a recommendation by EU tax experts in the Code of Conduct Group.
Vladislav Goranov, finance minister of Bulgaria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said: “Jurisdictions around the world have worked hard to make commitments to reform their tax policies. Our aim is to promote good tax governance globally.”
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