EMU package deepens the dangerous trajectory of the EU towards less democracy and more permanent austerity

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has criticised the European commission’s ‘Economic and Monetary Union package’ released today, saying it deepens the dangerous trajectory of the EU towards less democracy and more permanent austerity.

Carthy, a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said:

“There are no surprises in today’s announcement but it is nevertheless deeply alarming. It formalises the proposals that have been discussed over the past several years regarding deepening economic integration in the EMU, and enshrining austerity permanently into the EU’s constitution, at the expense of citizens in Europe.

“The Commission is proposing to enshrine the austerity straitjacket of the Fiscal Compact, currently an intergovernmental treaty, into the EU Treaty that will apply permanently to all EU members.

“It is proposing to create a European Monetary Fund to replace the current bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, and it is proposing to create an EU Minister for Economy and Finance, in addition to deepening the so-called structural reforms of Member States’ economies.

“The states who may require the aid of European Monetary Fund are those of us in the periphery of the EU –Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Irish state  – who have suffered or are suffering debt crises largely as a result of Germany’s massive and damaging current account surplus.

“There are two main goals evident in the Commission’s proposal.

“The first is to implant Germany’s failed and ideologically-driven deficit fetishism ever more firmly in the structure of the EU by creating a Ministry to surveil and structurally reform the economies of Member States, and to surveil and control their spending, taxation and borrowing through budgetary control.

“The second goal is to ensure that the current informal economic governance structure that exists in the Eurozone – outside of the Treaties and beyond democratic oversight – is extended across the EU as a whole in order to pressure the non-euro member states to join the common currency as soon as possible, and to give the Eurogroup the veneer of legitimacy.

“The Eurogroup currently exists informally and operates outside of the Treaty and beyond any public scrutiny or accountability.

“This is the wrong path for Europe and it will deepen rather than resolve the union’s economic problems – and without a doubt worsen the political crisis.

“There are alternatives that could actually work to end the divergence among the Eurozone economies, including a radical overhaul of the ECB’s mandate and monetary policies, structural reform of the Eurozone in order to actually achieve upwards convergence – to limit damaging chronic trade surpluses, and create effective surplus recycling mechanisms that don’t require further trade-offs in democratic decision making – and a real investment plan for the EU.”

EU Investment Court is an affront to democracy & a threat to the Irish economy

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that the Government must not grant the European Commission a mandate to being negotiating for the proposed multilateral investment court system, which he described as an affront to democracy and a threat to the Irish economy.

Speaking from Brussels following reports that the European Commission has now asked Member States for authorisation and directives to begin establishing a new international court, Carthy said:

“It is entirely premature that the European Commission should be asking national Governments to authorise a new court before a national debate has taken place.

“The establishment of this new court has the potential to violate the Irish Constitution, human rights and destroy the environment by granting corporations yet more rights by granting them the change to challenge public interest laws.

“In today’s economic climate, the biggest companies are wealthier than most countries. Corporate influence over policy making has grown, and the rate of unfettered expansion of free trade agreements by the European Commission is just one sign of this.

“Setting up a court whose sole jurisdiction will be to force governments to pay foreign corporations when public policy decreases the value of their investments is not only harmful for public services and the public interest, but also to the integrity of our judicial system, our Constitution and our democracy.

“Commissioner Malström has now officially sought permission from national governments to begin negotiations to set up a court which, until now has never been needed. Why now? Why will our own national courts suddenly become insufficient to hear cases regarding public policy? And why are multinational investors suddenly so privileged to be afforded their own special judicial system?

“The Fine Gael Government has until now refused to allow a debate on this issue, or on specific trade deals to which they have already endorsed, in the Dáil. That cannot continue. It is an affront to democracy and it poses a threat to the Irish economy to allow this process to go any further without a full debate”.

EU tax haven blacklist is a whitewash

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the introduction of a tax haven blacklist by the European Commission, but has criticised the secrecy and criteria used in the selection of the list.

Carthy said:

“Many of us campaigning for international tax justice have looked at this blacklisting exercise with scepticism, noting the potential for the process to be highly politicised and, as a result, ineffectual as a measure to tackle tax havens and push them to reform.

“Just 17 jurisdictions are on this list, while notorious tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are not included. The automatic exclusion of EU member states from the blacklist of tax havens makes the end result a joke, as some of the member states of the EU are complicit in a huge proportion of the profit-shifting that takes place globally.

“Last week Oxfam released a report in which it found that at least 35 states should be on a tax haven blacklist, including EU states Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta. In a separate report, the  Tax Justice Net also listed states Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta, and added Britain and Cyprus as members of the EU that should be on the  blacklist using the European Commission’s own criteria.

“In addition to the automatic exclusion of EU member states, political lobbying by countries like Britain resulted in its dependencies not being included – because they successfully removed the criteria that having no corporate taxation in place indicated a jurisdiction was a tax haven. So you can have a tax rate of zero, like Bermuda, and yet not be considered a tax haven according to this list.

“The process by which the jurisdictions were selected was highly politicised, but it was also highly secretive. Transparency International has been very critical of the process, saying it has been virtually impossible to get any information on how this list has been developed.

“The Commission and the Council needs to release the documents and minutes of meetings where the selection process took place and the negotiations that saw some jurisdictions removed from the list. The commitments given to the EU by the so-called grey list of countries who have pledged to implement change in order to avoid being blacklisted also needs to be made public.

“The concept of creating a tax haven blacklist with sanctions is a useful one that has the potential to encourage reform internationally, so I welcome the creation of this list as a first step.

“But let’s not fool ourselves that the Commission’s politicised and secretive blacklist will be an effective tool at ending the offshore scam – it won’t be. EU members must commit to global and public country-by-country reporting for multinationals and to fully public beneficial ownership registers as immediate and more effective tools for fighting tax fraud and financial secrecy.”

Carthy meets with Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy met with Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Brussels this week.

The meeting with President Puigdemont and other members of the Catalan government came​ as the Spanish government announced it is withdrawing the European Arrest Warrant against the five exiled leaders.

However, the Spanish national arrest warrant remains in place, meaning it is likely the officials would be arrested if they return to Catalonia. Carthy was joined at the meeting by Martina Anderson MEP.

Speaking from Brussels, Carthy said:

“It was a privilege to be able to meet with the ousted elected leaders of the Catalan government today, including President Carles Puigdemont. Sinn Féin will be fully supporting the mass demonstration planned for this Thursday demanding ‘Europe, wake up!’.

The Sinn Féin MEP described the response of the EU to the Catalan crisis as a “failure of leadership on an unprecedented scale”.

“Every time he is questioned on Catalonia, Commission President Juncker says this is an internal matter for Spain. He even goes beyond that and threatens Catalonia that a new independent state would find itself outside of the EU,” Carthy said.

“In response to the vicious attacks on defenceless people in a member state of the EU on the day of the referendum, Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans appeared before the Parliament to label the vote illegal, and to justify the brutal violence by saying – and I quote – ‘It is a duty for any government to uphold the law, and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force’.

“When the Catalan Government declared independence in accordance with the results of the referendum, and the mandate on which it was elected, the Spanish state responded by invoking Article 155, jailing the members of the government, dissolving the elected parliament and pursuing the legitimate President of Catalonia who had sought refuge in Belgium.

“These are the not the actions of a democratic, legitimate government in a European Union that is supposed to be based on the values of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression; these are the actions of an authoritarian regime.

“But the steamrolling of the elected Catalan government was met by the EU’s defence of the Spanish government, and deference to the Spanish position. Now Catalans are entering an election campaign in which some of their candidates and leaders remain behind bars, or outside of Catalonia under the threat of arrest.

“This is a failure of leadership by the Commission on an unprecedented scale, and it undermines the legitimacy and credibility of the entire European Union.

“That is why I am calling on people from across Ireland and Europe to stand in solidarity with the people of Catalonia in this struggle. In the face of such indefensible silence from the EU, we will make our voices heard this Thursday and demand that those in power in Brussels take note.”

North must be granted special status within EU

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has reiterated his party’s position that there can be no hard border in Ireland after Brexit and that the North must be given Designated Special Status within the European Union.

He added that DUP voters and others must challenge what he says is the party’s reckless and irresponsible approach to the current Brexit negotiations.

Matt Carthy said:

“Sinn Féin has repeatedly put forward the position that we need to see Designated Special Status for the North of Ireland, within the European Union.

“People in the North of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. There is no mandate for Brexit in any part of Ireland.

“It is therefore crucial that the North remains in the Customs Union and the Single Market.

“The Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts, must be protected.

“The rights of Irish and EU citizens in the North must be upheld.

“It’s now time for those farmers, businesses, trade unionists and communities who support the DUP to challenge that party’s reckless and irresponsible stance.

“The actions of the DUP are in direct conflict with the best interests of those whom they claim to represent and those who voted for them.”

MEP Carthy calls for action on fodder crisis

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has demanded urgent Government action to deal with the fodder crisis facing farmers across the country.

He also called for the current review of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme to ensure more targeted aid to those farmers on mountain land and lowlands who face specific difficulties.

The Midlands North West MEP, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee made the remarks at a meeting of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association in Slig.

Matt Carthy said:

“Farmers across the country are facing into a very serious fodder crisis. Excessive rainfall this year has resulted in farmers having to start early feeding of livestock, and they are unable to get a second cut of silage.

“Waterlogged fields have forced many farmers to keep cattle indoors throughout the worst of the summer weather and grass intended for silage could not be cut across much of the North West.

“Farmers have observed 10 dry days between July and October for drying and evaporation. Fodder shortages have now spread to the border counties and Midlands.

“The fodder situation is serious and getting worse. Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed must urgently address this deepening crisis and implement a fodder scheme to establish a fund for affected farmers. He needs to introduce an emergency fodder scheme immediately.

“The Government must step in to assist our farmers. While farmers have been warning about this problem for months now, the Minister for Agriculture has been claiming there is sufficient fodder across the country.

“Farmers have warned that any fodder that they do manage to produce now will be of poor quality – leading to potential animal health problems.

“The last time the Government was forced into action on these issues was in 2013. At that time, there was an increase in the number of contacts made by farmers to the Pieta House suicide prevention centre in Limerick following a joint initiative with the IFA. There were massive mental health difficulties as a result of cash flow problems.

Addressing the Areas of Natural Consent (ANC) review Matt Carthy said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for special recognition for the extra difficulties faced by mountain farmers in the review. I have also called for farmers constrained by lowlands to receive more targeted aid.

Sinn Féin Senators submitted a motion calling for the retention of mountain sheep grazing as a separate category after the review of the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme; payments to properly reflect the multiple constraints experienced by those farming mountain type land; for payments to be set at similar rates to the offshore islands rates; the new, mapped ANC areas to be published in time to have a proper consultation before they are sent in draft to the EU.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voted against this motion and Minister Creed rejected any alignment of hill and island rates.

“I have called for the Minister to use the extension of the ANC review wisely as well as not to use this exercise as an attempt to kick the review down the road.

“It is regrettable that the fact that this money will be distributed before the review has been conducted will mean that the money may not be targeted towards those most deserving.”

Brexit will severely damage the Irish road haulage sector unless certainty sought by the Irish Government

Matt Carthy MEP, who is a member of the Transport and Tourism Committee in the European Parliament has spoken of his concerns regarding the potential detrimental impact that Brexit could have on the land transport sector.

Carthy said:

‘Recently the President of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Verona Murphy, outlined the potential reality that Brexit imposes on the Irish road haulage sector to the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee.

“It is increasingly obvious that Irish road hauliers require immediate certainty – this is a sector with 30,000 jobs which accounts for 2.5% of employment in the Irish economy.

“Over 80% of road freight from Ireland to mainland Europe must travel through the UK.

“The truth of the matter is that with a border in place a truck travelling from Donegal must travel through a border on four occasions before reaching mainland Europe.

“No other EU state, peripheral or otherwise, will face this challenge.

“The EU must recognise that the brunt of the repercussions of Brexit will land on the island of Ireland, who have never voted to leave the EU.

“At an EU level I will raise the need for Irish road hauliers to be granted certainty, so workers can continue to operate without fear.

“The fear that Brexit negotiations will send Irish road hauliers to a cliff’s edge is completely unacceptable.

“The Irish government must demand an agreement that protects the essential all-island element of the road haulage sector to provide stability and certainty to an industry threatened by a reckless Brexit.’

EU Commission unwilling to address farm succession and generational renewal in meaningful way

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that EU Commission unwilling to address farm succession and generational renewal in meaningful way – Carthy

Speaking from Brussels, Matt Carthy said:

“The average age of farmers in Ireland is 57-years-old, with the number of farmers under 40 decreasing year on year. The same is true all over Europe, where almost one third of farm holders are over the age of 65.

“Despite this, there has been no long-term EU or national policy to tackle this issue and there are a whole myriad of factors exacerbating this situation. Today Commissioner Hogan has presented his proposals for a CAP post-2020, however there is again a gaping hole with regard to generational renewal.

“Land regulations, taxation, inheritance law and territorial planning can only go so far in solving this problem. And the statistics we have are clearly telling us that they’re not getting bringing us in the right direction.

“In June, the Minister launched the registration of succession farm partnerships, supposedly as a flagship scheme to encourage generational renewal. But looking at the terms of the scheme you’d have to wonder what kind of assessment the Minister took before announcing the scheme.

“The scheme launched over the summer offers tax incentives of €25,000 over a 5 year period. However with average farm income in Ireland only €24,060, this scheme will mean nothing for the majority of farmers. Most farmers simply aren’t earning enough for their product and work for these kinds of incentives to make sense.

“Farm incomes are reaching dangerously low levels and it is no wonder that as farmers get older they are inclined to hold on to their land as a form of financial security.

“With only 10% of farmers in Ireland aged under 40, it vital that generational renewal strategies be a central part of the CAP post 2020. And the Minister and Commissioner Hogan have got to get to grips with this situation, or witness the complete decline of the sector.

“The Commissioner’s plans for Erasmus exchange for young farmers will be completely redundant if there are no young farmers to take part.

“During the last CAP reform, a first installation grant was one option given to Member States to include in their Rural Development Programmes. The Irish Government did not seize this opportunity, therefore an EU-wide grant in the new CAP would be welcome.

“However, generational renewal strategies must create incentives to support both the farmer and the successor, taking into account the precarious position a retiring farmer puts himself in when he eventually gives up his land.  Farm partnerships are an excellent way to ease exit from farming, however Minister Creed’s current scheme is doing nothing to ensure financial stability for farmers.

“Declining farming income must be part of the conversation here, and it is extremely disappointing that today’s Communication fails to address that”.

Carthy calls for new analysis of impact of CCCTB on EU states’ revenue

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on the European Commission to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) on the tax revenue of member states by using new data that will be available under country-by-country reporting.

Carthy was speaking in response to the publication of a new report commissioned by GUE/NGL MEPs on the Panama Papers inquiry committee. The study is entitled, ‘Assessing the impact of the CCCTB: European tax base shifts under a range of policy scenarios’, and was written by academics and experts associated with the Tax Justice Network.

“Sinn Fein has raised concerns about this proposal regarding its impact on tax sovereignty since it was first raised in 2011. This report was carried out by academics who are in favour of a global switch to a unitary taxation system which treats a multinational group as a single entity, and does not address the issue of tax sovereignty. But the report shows the alarming limitations of the data that have been used by the European Commission and other sources in estimating the impact of the CCCTB proposal on member states’ tax revenue,” Carthy said.

“It suggests that Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg would experience an inevitable sharp decline in revenue, but that this is not reflected in the Commission’s analysis because the main databases fail to take into account the dominance of US multinationals’ tax tricks in Ireland, for example.

“I fully support the call made by these academics for policymakers to address the problem of unreliable data by using the more comprehensive data resource created by the introduction of an OECD standard for country-by-country reporting when it is available – and the finding that taking major policy steps without such analysis would be deeply irresponsible.

“At the same time, the Irish government needs to act now to end the dangerous and unsustainable situation in which it actively markets the Irish state as a tax avoidance hub, and in which our public finances are severely over-reliant on the corporation tax receipts of a handful of multinationals. This situation leaves our public finances extremely vulnerable to changes in the international tax landscape, especially in the EU and the US.

“This report also confirms my key concern regarding the CCCTB proposal – that member states are being asked to transfer further powers to the Commission in exchange for the promise that this new system will end the ability of multinationals to shift profits. But shortcomings in the proposal mean this goal is unlikely to be achieved. This analysis finds that the proposal as it currently stands means that profit-shifting outside of the EU is not addressed at all, and that the introduction of the CCCTB would actually result in a significant decline in the corporate tax base in the EU.”

Carthy concluded: “I will be circulating this important report among fellow MEPs on the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee which is currently examining the CCCTB proposal, and urging the Commission to act on the report’s recommendation of carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the impact on member states’ revenue using new data available under country-by-country reporting.”

Hogan’s CAP proposals lack imagination and do nothing to address debate on Brexit Funding hole

Speaking in the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee where new CAP reform proposals were announced, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said:

“Expectations will no doubt be dashed today as Commissioner Hogan announces a lacklustre programme for CAP reform.

“Many options that were laid out in the last CAP reform, but were either not implemented or effective, have been wheeled out again, showing a complete lack of ambition or imagination to fix the current system.

“The leaked version of this Communication from October initially mooted a cap on payments of between €60,000 to €100,000.

“However these caps have completely vanished in the final document, possibly indicating pressure from those with a vested interest in preventing change.

“Proposals to increase subsidiarity and greater Member State responsibility are of course welcome, especially when we see how programmes like Greening have had such an uneven impact on farmers.

“However it remains to be seen how this new system fits into the Commission’s plans for simplification.

“Moving towards a system of Commission-approved strategic plans may just add another layer of bureaucracy between farmers and policies so that it becomes impossible to ensure both accountability and flexibility.

“Farmers in Ireland will be all too aware of this issue. The Irish Government’s decision to apply educational criteria for young farmer payments was somehow pushed back onto the blame of the Commission earlier this year. And the situation of the Old-Young farmers has never been resolved for similar reasons.

“Problems that emerge are ping-ponged back and forth between the Department and the Commission, with both failing to take the blame and both refusing to take action to resolve it.

“This paper is also deafeningly quiet on the Brexit funding hole. Farmers will no doubt be wondering how the new proposals fit into the €3bn CAP funding gap caused by Britain’s impending exit. It is massively disappointing that the Commission has refused to address this head on.

“Reports are show that in 2015 17.32% of total direct payments last year went to farmers in receipt of payments above €100,000.

“However these payments only went to 0.24% of farmers. If a cap of even €100,000 were strictly applied, upwards of €7bn could be saved and the UK’s CAP contribution absorbed. Yet there is no discussion on the CAP budget here at all.

“I welcome assurances that Direct Payments are to be protected. However we need to be clearer that the new focus on a results-based CAP does not shift payments even further away from smaller and more disadvantaged farmers.”