New setback for EU energy tax plans

France takes on Spain's obstructionist mantle as ministers agree once more to disagree

EU finance ministers yesterday failed yet again to agree a common framework for energy taxation, marking a rebuff for the Spanish presidency and another twist in the bloc's long and so far fruitless energy tax debate. The impasse also prevented a separate agreement on tax incentives for biofuels.

The key development yesterday was sudden and total French opposition to the energy tax proposals expressed by new finance minister Francis Mer. EU governments can only agree common tax measures by unanimity. Therefore, France could block all progress, as Spain did until it underwent a political conversion this spring (EED 18/03/02).

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