Friday 22 November 2019

Taoiseach launches scathing attack on Athens

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a European Council leaders' summit at the European Council in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Getty
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a European Council leaders' summit at the European Council in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Getty
John Downing

John Downing

THE Taoiseach has launched a scathing attack on the Greek government and warned that "time is running out" for Athens to work out a deal with the EU on its massive €240bn bailout.

At the same time, Mr Kenny made light of a new series of EU challenges to Ireland's corporate tax policy. These include an early move to oblige all EU countries to reveal their tax breaks for multinational firms; a new plan to harmonise company taxes across the EU; and a verdict expected on a Commission investigation into Irish tax inducements to the computer giant Apple.

Mr Kenny was speaking ahead of a leaders' summit in Brussels and a key meeting of the Greek government with leaders of France, Germany and key EU leaders late last night, aimed at hammering out new debt payment arrangements.

The Taoiseach's comments also came just after a meeting of the EU political grouping, the European People's Party, which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr Kenny said everyone respected Greece's position and need to fight its corner.

"But there is a difference between political debate and disagreement and threats relating to political jihadists in Europe. And that is not acceptable," Mr Kenny said. This was a clear reference to the leader of the minority party in the Greek coalition government, Panos Kammenos, who earlier this month warned Greece will unleash a "wave of millions of economic migrants" and jihadists on Europe unless the eurozone backs down on austerity demands.

The Taoiseach brushed aside suggestions that Ireland was being blocked out of the latest wave of eurozone talks with Greece. Mr Kenny said the outcome of the meeting with leaders from France, Germany, the EU Commission, the European Central Bank, and the eurozone chairman, would be brought back to the leaders' summit later today.

But Mr Kenny's statement on Greece's situation was blunt: "Greece and the Greeks have got to face up to their responsibilities here. The ball is in their court. The prime minister (Alexis Tsipras) asked for time and space and he has been given that to come forward with sustainable solutions and workable proposals.

"Obviously, Greece needs to reflect on that very quickly now because time is running out."

The Taoiseach said he welcomed a move by the policy-guiding EU Commission to publish a revised proposal for a so-called 'Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base' (CCCTB) by June.

Mr Kenny said Ireland had nothing to fear on corporate tax and would consider the new proposals in due course.

But Brussels diplomats said a move by the EU Commission for member states to show all the tax inducements they give multinationals will impact on Ireland and many other states. It includes a provision to share all company tax rulings going back over the past 10 years.

At the same time, EU sources said a result on the investigation into Ireland's tax arrangements with Apple is due in June. This is part of investigations which also involve multinationals and the Luxembourg and Dutch governments.

All these moves reflect a determination in Brussels to oblige multinationals to pay meaningful amounts of tax somewhere within the EU states in which they operate.

The new range of concerted pressures on Ireland's corporate tax regime will not focus on the 12.5pc flat rate, which has been a source of annoyance to the bigger EU states for some 20 years. Ireland is seen as winning more than its share of inward investment - especially from the US.

The new Commission, headed by former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, has to be seen to act on this matter.

Irish Independent

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