Facebook, HSBC, Coca-Cola blacklisted by Socialist MEPs
Center-left MEPs turn up the heat on multinationals refusing to exchange views on tax policy.
Google, Facebook, HSBC and AB Inbev are among a group of multinationals that have been “banned” from meeting MEPs from the European Parliament’s center-left grouping unless the companies agree to appear before a special committee investigating tax avoidance.
The group of 14 companies considered persona non grata by the Parliament’s second-largest bloc, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, also includes Amazon, IKEA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Coca-Cola.
The parliamentary tax inquiry was launched almost a year ago amid public outrage over the Luxleaks revelations, which published hundreds of sweetheart tax deals between Luxembourg and foreign multinationals.
But the panel has since made little progress either in revealing examples of tax avoidance or in driving reforms. Thursday’s move by the S&D group is part of a push to give the committee more bite.
“The multinational enterprises that refused to respond to questions from the temporary TAXE committee will be banned from holding meetings with MEPs or staff from the S&D Group until further notice,” said Gianni Pittella, leader of the group, in an emailed statement.
Tax rulings are back on the front pages after Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, Wednesday tore up the tax arrangements made by Starbucks and Fiat and said they would have to reimburse up to €30 million each.
The companies were re-invited Monday to appear before the Parliament committee on tax rulings on November 16.
Panel chair Alain Lamassoure, a French center-right MEP, said last week he would give the companies “one more chance … to share their views with us on current developments in the corporate tax world.”
The 14 companies have declined all previous invites. Total, Airbus, SSE and BNP Paribas, by contrast, have appeared before the committee’s 55 MEPs.
Google said Wednesday it will participate in the hearing. Nonetheless, the search engine appears in the list of firms sent by Pittella to delegation heads this morning.
Today’s decision, if enforced, would deprive the multinationals of access to some of the Parliament’s most influential MEPs.
They include Udo Bullmann, a German MEP, and Elisa Ferreira, a Portuguese MEP, who are likely to be heavily involved in negotiations on legislation overhauling Europe’s capital markets; Petra Kammerevert, a German MEP, and Patrizia Toia, an Italian MEP, who are likely to be involved in rewriting Europe’s digital rules; and Bernd Lange, a German MEP, and David Martin, a British MEP, who are active in negotiations over a transatlantic trade agreement.
The companies’ refusal so far to appear before the committee prompted some MEPs to call for their access passes to the Parliament to be revoked.
However, Martin Schulz, the president of the Parliament, disagreed. In a letter sent to Lamassoure, he argued that transparency rules did not allow MEPs to ban lobbyists from the building, leading the center-left S&D group to adopt its own resolution Thursday.
“Those who behave in such a disrespectful manner towards an appointed parliamentary committee cannot count on MEPs’ willingness to enter into a dialogue on other subjects,” said Peter Simon, a German S&D MEP.