Jean-Claude Juncker faces censure vote over Luxembourg tax schemes

Eureopean Union chief’s actions as prime minister of Luxembourg attacked over alleged role in creation of tax haven

Jean-Claude Juncker is facing a vote in the European parliament to declare him unfit for his post as head of the EU executive because of his alleged role in turning Luxembourg into Europe’s biggest tax haven during the two decades he dominated politics in the Grand Duchy.

Far-right and anti-EU MEPs got together on Tuesday to collect enough support for a motion of censure, which must be debated and voted on, possibly as soon asnext week.

The Five Star movement of Italian former stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo is behind the attempt to declare Juncker “intolerable”, claiming he has lost his credibility as president of the European commission following the so-called Luxleaks disclosures in the Guardian and other newspapers.

Leaked documents detailed the scale of tax schemes engineered by the Luxembourg authorities for many of the biggest global brands and banks. Juncker was “directly responsible” for the tax scams that saved the multinationals billions and deprived other EU countries of tax revenue, said the motion, supported by Nigel Farage’s anti-EU Ukip party. “That commission president Jean-Claude Juncker held the office of prime minister throughout the period of these agreements makes him directly responsible for the tax avoidance policies,” said the motion. “A person who is responsible for the creation, the implementation, the governance and the monitoring of these aggressive tax avoidance policies does not have the credibility to serve the European citizens as president of the European commission.”

The attempt to skewer Juncker is being led by Grillo’s Italian sidekicks. Last week Grillo denounced Juncker as someone “telling us what to do while keeping his money in a tax haven.” Marco Zanni, a Five Star MEP, said: “The Luxleaks scandal shows that commission president Juncker in his political life has always acted to enrich his country behind its European partners, in defiance of the union and the community spirit he hopes to represent.”

Other groupings are also attempting to raise the pressure on Juncker, who was Luxembourg prime minister for 18 years until last year and finance minister for most of that time.

The far left in the parliament, while refusing to make common cause with the extreme right, is also trying to drum up support for a motion but so far has failed to gather enough signatures. A motion of censure, triggering a full debate and vote, requires the backing of 76 MEPs, or 10% of the total. Tuesday’s motion was supported by 44 from the Ukip-led caucus and 32 non-attached MEPs who included Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front. Le Pen and Ukip’s Nigel Farage are usually hostile towards one another.

Liberals in the parliament have also been calling for an inquiry into Juncker’s record on tax avoidance. The mainstream parties of the centre-right and centre-left, however, as well as many liberals, are solid in their support of Juncker, although there could be social democrat defections in the vote as well as support from some Greens.

The disclosures of the Luxembourg tax arrangements came four days into Juncker’s five-year term as commission president. He then vanished for a week. When he reappeared last Wednesday pledging to lead a new EU campaign against tax avoidance, he was summoned to the parliament where a “grand coalition” of the centre-right and centre-left protected him. It was clear on Tuesday that Juncker could count on mainstream support.

Manfred Weber, a German Christian Democrat and floor leader of the European People’s party, the parliament’s biggest caucus, attacked the motion and defended Juncker. “Europe needs strong and active leadership right now. We will reject this attack on the commission and Europe,” he said. “The anti-Europeans are trying again to weaken Europe. A very scurrilous group has banded together.”

The motion said: “EU member states have lost billions of euros in potential tax revenues due to aggressive corporate tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg, established during the period in which the new president of the european commission Juncker held the office of prime minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. [It] is intolerable that a person who has been responsible for aggressive tax avoidance policies serves as president of the European commission”


Ian Traynor in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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