Monday, 11 December 2017

Commission welcomes first operational steps towards a European Defence Union

The Commission welcomes the plans presented by 25 EU Member States today to work together on a first set of 17 collaborative defence projects in the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). President Juncker said: "In June I said it was time to wake up the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: permanent structured cooperation. Six months later, it is happening. I welcome the steps taken today by Member States to lay the foundations of a European Defence Union. Europe cannot and should not outsource our security and defence. The European Defence Fund that the European Commission proposed will complement these efforts and act as a further incentive for defence cooperation – including potential funding for some of the projects presented today." PESCO is an instrument in the EU Treaty to enable willing Member States to pursue greater cooperation in defence and security. Since November, 25 Member States have notified their intention to launch Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence to High Representative Federica Mogherini.

Today, these Member States signed a Declaration announcing the preparation of first collaborative projects in areas including the setting up of an EU medical headquartersmaritime surveillanceunderwater drones and cyber-defence. While PESCO is purely intergovernmental, the European Defence Fund proposed by the European Commission in June will create incentives for Member States to cooperate on joint development and the acquisition of defence equipment and technology through co-financing from the EU budget and practical support from the Commission. This could include some of the projects presented by Member States today in the framework of PESCO. Additionally, the Fund fully finances grants for collaborative research projects, with first grant agreements expected to be signed before the end of 2017. Member States are expected to reach agreement on the European Defence Fund at a Council meeting tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Fair Taxation: EU publishes list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

The first ever EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions has been agreed today by the Finance Ministers of EU Member States during their meeting in Brussels.

In total, ministers have listed 17 countries for failing to meet agreed tax good governance standards. In addition, 47 countries have committed to addressing deficiencies in their tax systems and to meet the required criteria, following contacts with the EU.

American Samoa
South Korea
Marshall Islands
Saint Lucia
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates

This unprecedented exercise should raise the level of tax good governance globally and help prevent the large-scale tax abuse exposed in recent scandals such as the "Paradise Papers".

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: "The adoption of the first ever EU blacklist of tax havens marks a key victory for transparency and fairness. But the process does not stop here. We must intensify the pressure on listed countries to change their ways. Blacklisted jurisdictions must face consequences in the form of dissuasive sanctions, while those that have made commitments must follow up on them quickly and credibly. There must be no naivety: promises must be turned into actions. No one must get a free pass."

The idea of an EU list was originally conceived by the Commission and subsequently taken forward by Member States. Compilation of the list has prompted active engagement from many of the EU's international partners. However, work must now continue as 47 more countries should meet EU criteria by the end of 2018, or 2019 for developing countries without financial centres, to avoid being listed. The Commission also expects Member States to continue towards strong and dissuasive countermeasures for listed jurisdictions which can complement the existing EU-level defensive measures related to funding.

Next Steps

The EU listing process is a dynamic one, which will continue into 2018:

  • As a first step, a letter will be sent to all jurisdictions on the EU list, explaining the decision and what they can do to be de-listed.
  • The Commission and Member States (in the Code of Conduct Group) will continue to monitor all jurisdictions closely, to ensure that commitments are fulfilled and to determine whether any other countries should be listed in the future. A first interim progress report should be published by mid-2018. The EU list will be updated at least once a year.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

From Russia with Love

Despite freezing temperatures in the middle of April, Saint Petersburg is a place to go, at least once in a lifetime. The reminiscences of Soviet communism are impressive and make us travel back in time, the metro experience is a great taste of those idealistic and misunderstood times. While sightseeing through this Russian city, it's impossible not to surrender to the beauty of its architecture, churches and of course the famous Hermitage and the Winter Palace, stormed by the Bolsheviks exactly 100 years ago during the Russian Revolution. So much History is at the core of this city that makes one become introspective and cogitating of what has been and what will be.

Peter the Great

Hermitage, the largest museum in the world founded by Catherine the Great in 1764


Church of the Saviour on Blood

An afternoon in the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games!

Lenin and the House of Soviets @ Moskovskaya 

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyianov 

The House of Soviets

The "Flying Dutchman" Restaurant in Neva River

A walk in the park...

 The St Petersburg Metro is one of the deepest metro systems in the world. The noisy wagons take you back to the 60s

St Isaac's Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world.

Admiralty Building, the former headquarters of the Admiralty Board and the Imperial Russian Navy in St. Petersburg, Russia and the current headquarters of the Russian Navy.

View over the Neva river