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Ahern Puts Dampers On EU Tax Harmonisation Dreams

by Jason Gorringe,, London

18 December 2001

Speaking at the weekend Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned that in order to secure Irish co-operation, any plans for tax harmonisation within the European Union must be shelved for at least the next 20 years, especially with regard to any new treaty negotiations.

Mr Ahern told a summit meeting of European leaders last week that although he appreciated the fact that the new Convention on the 2004 EU Treaty would be wide-ranging, and would deal with many issues, in his opinion it would not be credible to re-open topics such as corporate taxation, an issue on which Ireland took a tough stance at Nice earlier this year.

Although he admitted that it would be impossible to stop pro-harmonisation countries from raising the issue of a standardised European tax system, he warned that 'that could apply both ways', hinting that the Irish government could raise issues which would cause the governments of other countries discomfort.

The Republic of Ireland's rejection of the Nice Treaty this summer was the source of some confusion, as the country is famously pro-Europe. However, at the time of the referendum, Irish eurosceptics expressed concerns regarding the reforms of the Union's institutions to make space for Central and Eastern European countries.

More recently, head of the National Platform organisation, and Trinity College academic, Anthony Coughlan, described the country's concerns: 'The most political thing in the Treaty of Nice, which causes us to object to it, is that it allows an inner group of EU states- the bigger states- to do their own thing, to set up a kind of federation, to harmonise taxes, to do all sorts of things like that among themselves, without the permission of the others.'

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