European commission faces vote of confidence in parliament

Members of parliament's EFDD group have submitted a motion of censure on the commission, which MEPs are expected to vote on, less than a month after president Juncker and his team were endorsed.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

19 Nov 2014

Jean-Claude Juncker's mandate as commission president set off to a rocky start amid the recent 'LuxLeaks' revelations, which allege Luxembourg helped companies save billions of euros through questionable tax deals, during a time when Juncker was prime minister.

Last June, the commission announced it was launching an investigation into several member states' tax practices, including Luxembourg and Ireland.

Members of parliament's GUE/NGL group had previously been unsuccessful in their attempt to submit a motion of censure as they had failed to gather the minimum required number of signatures – 10 per cent of MEPs. They had refused to accept signatures from members of far right parties.

At the time, GUE/NGL president Gabi Zimmer said the motion was "about holding Juncker to promises he has previously made", as the Luxembourgish official had made a commitment to fight tax evasion and tax fraud.

"[This censure motion is] an opportunity [for MEPs] to show their true colours and let their voters know where they stand on the actions of president Juncker" - Steven Woolfe

GUE/NGL vice president Malin Björk added, "to not act now would be the same as giving Juncker and all the companies using Luxembourg as a tax haven a free pass to continue these aggressive tax evasion policies".

The EFDD's motion received backing from 76 MEPs, including Britain's UKIP party, France's Front National and Italy's Five-Star Movement.

While the Five-Star Movement is part of the EFDD group, the Front National is not, with EFDD co-chair Nigel Farage previously rejecting the French party's offer to join forces and form a parliamentary group.

The motion targets Jean-Claude Juncker and accuses him of being "directly responsible for the tax avoidance policies" alleged to have been put in place in Luxembourg during the time the commission president was prime minister.

The motion not only aims to strip Juncker of his responsibilities, it also looks to remove the entire college of commissioners.



Steven Woolfe, a member of parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, said this motion would be "an opportunity [for MEPs] to show their true colours and let their voters know where they stand on the actions of president Juncker".

Backing the motion of censure, Marco Zanni, who is also a member of parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, accused the Luxembourgish official of always acting "to enrich his country behind its European partners, in defiance of the union and the community spirit he hopes to represent".

Catherine Bearder, a member of parliament's ALDE group, dismissed the motion as "opportunist grandstanding", saying that what the EU needs is "a proper independent investigation into the allegations against Juncker and his possible involvement in tax evasion" rather than a vote of confidence.

Marc Tarabella, a member of parliament's S&D group, said "the Eurosceptics' and far right representatives' only real objective is to make Europe ungovernable in order to feed off citizens' misery, which they themselves will have caused".

However, the Belgian deputy did call for "the implementation of fiscal harmonisation and for each member state to engage in the same tax practices so as to avoid fiscal dumping".

Manfred Weber, chair of parliament's EPP group, said Juncker's team "has full support" of the group.

In order for it to pass, the motion requires a two thirds majority.


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