Schieder relentless about tax on financial transactions

A cross-country tax on financial transactions is anything but dead, Social Democratic (SPÖ) Finance Secretary Andreas Schieder has claimed.

Schieder said today (Weds) that the Austrian government coalition of his faction and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) would keep up the pressure for the introduction of such a levy. He told the Kurier that the debate was intensifying at the moment “because there are strong opponents in Europe”. Schieder said politically muscular lobbying groups were trying to avoid a creation of a tax on financial transactions and transfers of money across the continent.

Supporters of such a tax recently lost an influential ally when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called an introduction an unrealistic scenario. Schäuble appealed to give up the fight and look for alternatives. Schieder said today: “Now is not the time to consider a plan b. We must not abandon this project.”

The Austrian finance secretary claimed that eight other governments in the European Union (EU) were in support of the Austrian coalition’s initiative. He added that a few more would participate if an agreement could be achieved. Schieder also underlined that the European Commission (EC) – which is headed by former Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso – and the European Parliament (EP) were backing the campaign for a tax on all kinds of financial transactions.

Speaking to the Kurier, Schieder admitted that “some conservative governments” were fighting the project. But he also pointed out that they were in favour after the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers kicked off a global crisis in 2008. “Now, as things are getting serious, they get cold feet,” Schieder said, adding that the sceptical state and government leaders were “positioning themselves against a majority of Europeans.”

The SPÖ-ÖVP government coalition declared in its new budget consolidation package that the plan was to rake in half a billion Euros with a tax on financial transactions from 2014. Schieder – who called 2012 a “decisive year” for the attempts to set up the taxation directive – made clear that the Austrian government would not accept an increase of its participation to the EU’s budget. Schieder stressed that the country was contributing more than it received.

Schieder is the SPÖ’s leading financial issues official while Maria Fekter is in charge of the ÖVP’s financial agenda. The finance minister faced strong criticism a few weeks ago for breaking an agreement of the Eurozone’s finance ministers. Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker planned to announce the budget pact rules they agreed on in a long meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at a press conference. But it was Fekter who informed reporters about all the details beforehand.

Juncker did little to disguise his disagreement with Fekter’s decision. Fekter said the next day that she had managed to sort out everything with Juncker. She then caused more irritation by claiming in a newspaper interview that the Prime Minister of Luxembourg had not been in a bad mood because of her actions but due to a kidney stone issue. Juncker vehemently denied any kind of health problems.