BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany and France asked the European Commission on Friday to push ahead with plans for a financial transactions tax with a core of at least nine European Union countries, after failing to win backing for such a levy across the entire EU.
Germany had originally wanted a tax covering financial transactions across the 27-nation EU but the plan ran into opposition from Britain and some other countries, prompting it to aim instead for a core group to introduce the levy.
According to a statement released by the German finance ministry, the German and French finance ministers on Friday delivered a letter to the Commission asking for so-called “enhanced cooperation” to move ahead on the tax, a process which would need the support of a minimum nine EU member states.
Italy, Spain and Austria are among countries that have expressed support for such a tax in the past, but it remains unclear whether a full nine can be rallied to back the drive.
A spokeswoman for Algirdas Semeta, the European Commissioner in charge of tax policy, said the Commission welcomed the Franco-German letter which kept momentum going on the tax, saying it would offer many benefits, “not least a new source of revenue and a fair contribution from the financial sector”.
“For our part, the Commission is ready to react extremely quickly once we have the minimum number of requests needed,” said the spokeswoman. “Citizens have spoken out very strongly in favour of this tax, and we want to respond as quickly as we can to their expectations.”
According to the German finance ministry release, Wolfgang Schaeuble and French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici also delivered letters to their counterparts in the rest of the EU on Friday, inviting them to join their initiative.
“The German government, together with the French government, will continue to advocate emphatically for the integration process and work on convincing the other member states, so that the circle of those who participate in the enhanced co-operation on the financial transaction tax becomes as big as possible,” the statement read.
The Commission said it urged other member states “who are favourable to an EU financial transactions tax to send their letters as soon as they can”.
Schaeuble had said in June that he accepted there would be no pan-EU agreement and he would now seek to build a scaled down group.
A group of willing EU countries has been negotiating for months details of a possible transaction tax to put a brake on financial markets and fill public coffers.
The German government hopes to placate demands by the main opposition in its parliament to move towards such a tax in return for their support in approving bailout measures for ailing European states.
Reporting by Gareth Jones and Sarah Marsh in Berlin, and Luke Baker in Brussels