Wednesday 7 December 2016

Vestager denies anti-US bias in European Union

Published 20/09/2016 | 02:30

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager Picture: Bloomberg
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager Picture: Bloomberg

The European Union has launched an in-depth probe into alleged sweetheart tax deals received by French utility Engie from the government of Luxembourg.

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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the move on a trip to Washington DC, where she faced pressure from US policy makers and business leaders over her ruling that US tech icon Apple had received favourable tax terms that amounted to state aid and ordered it to repay €13bn in back taxes in Ireland.

The Irish Government insists no tax is due and said it will challenge the ruling.

Ms Vestager yesterday denied any anti-US bias. "If you look at our practice, then you cannot find a US bias. You cannot find the statistics to back up any kind of bias."

Commissioner Vestager herself linked the Apple and Engie cases in a speech delivered in Washington, referring to it after insisting that the Apple ruling was correct. "Just today, we opened an in-depth investigation into Luxembourg's tax treatment of the French electric utility company GDF Suez group - now known as Engie.

"Our concern is that tax rulings issued by Luxembourg may have given GDF Suez an unfair advantage over other companies, in breach of EU state aid rules," she said.

Earlier, in a statement outlining the new case she said the Commission had concerns that several tax rulings issued by Luxembourg may have given GDF Suez (now Engie) an unfair advantage over other companies.

But the Commissioner faces a difficult, even hostile, audience in Washington. America's Business Roundtable, representing hundreds of heads of big corporations, wrote to every head of government in Europe last week, saying the Apple ruling "must not be allowed to stand".

US officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, have derided Brussels, saying Ms Vestager is trying to force Ireland to collect taxes that are really owed to taxpayers in America. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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