MEPs up the pressure for EU energy tax

Parliament calls for "unblocking" of legislative system, identifies candidates for green taxes

The European Parliament sent a clear signal to other EU institutions this week that it wants EU-wide taxes on energy use and has called on finance ministers to break their stalemate on the issue. MEPs from across the political spectrum voted by 419 votes to 80 with 19 abstentions for a resolution calling for an EU tax on energy and carbon dioxide emissions and levies for specific products.

Swedish Liberal Democrat MEP Karl-Erik Olsson, who drew up the resolution, said: "Parliament's stand is very strong on this. We have a good number of points here and support from most parties and all countries."

Although the resolution - which was the Parliament's response to a communication from the European Commission last year on the subject of environmental taxes - is not legally binding, it will make the on-going debate about developing an EU-wide energy tax more vigorous. Earlier this month, the EU taxation commissioner, Mario Monti, chaired a meeting of national officials in an attempt to unblock progress on a Commission proposal to introduce an EU-wide system of minimum excise duties on energy products taxation (ENDS Daily 6 July).

The Parliament's resolution targets the Council of Ministers' stalemate on the issue and calls for a change in how member states vote for measures on energy tax - currently all 15 countries have to reach unanimity on tax issues. The Parliament urges the Commission to "assess the use of unanimity voting on the harmonisation of legislation concerning taxation".

In a separate resolution, MEPs again called for the Council of Ministers to "relinquish its campaign of blocking" the Commission's proposal. The resolution, Parliament's response to a Commission communication on promoting employment in the environmental field, calls on the EU to "work towards a socio-economically acceptable change in taxation," so that resource consumption and environment damage would be taxed and fiscal incentives would be used to promote sustainable development.

The resolution calls on the Commission to analyse the potential for job creation in the environment sphere and to draw up "a coherent programme of action on the environment and employment".

At the plenary Parliament session in Strasbourg this week, EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said she hoped the Austrian Presidency would put the issue of employment on the agenda of the next meeting of EU environment ministers in October.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111; European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111. References: Report on "Environmental taxes and charges in the single market," A4-0200/98; Report on "Environment and employment," A4-0233/98.

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