Támogasd Te is küzdelmünket a zöld és igazságos jövőért!

MEPs’ joint call to the European Commission for the protection of media freedom and investigative journalism

MEPs call on European Commission to Protect Investigative Journalists and Stand for Media Freedom 


MEPs David Casa (EPP), Ana Gomes (S&D), Monica Macovei (ECR), Maite Pagazaurtundúa (ALDE) Stelios Kouloglou (GUE) and Benedek Jávor (Greens) have joined forces to push for EU legislation that will address and end “SLAPPs” – lawsuits intended to intimidate and silence investigative journalists and independent media by burdening them with exorbitant legal expenses until they abandon their opposition. According to the MEPs, the practice is abusive, poses a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union.

SLAPP was used, for instance, against investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and is now being used against Maltese media houses by firms associated with government corruption and the Panama Papers scandal that are threatening legal action in the United States.

David Casa, Ana Gomes, Monica Macovei, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Stelios Kouloglou and Benedek Jávor stated:

“In Malta we have seen that firms like Pilatus Bank and Henley & Partners that employ these practices, using American litigation, have succeeded in having stories altered or deleted completely from online archives. And investigative journalists are prevented from reporting further on corrupt practices out of fear of further legal action. But this is not just a Maltese problem. In the UK, Appleby, the firm associated with the Paradise Papers, is using similar tactics against the Guardian and the BBC.

The cross-border nature of investigative journalism as well as the tendency to pursue legal action in jurisdictions outside the EU that only have a tenuous connection with the parties justifies and requires an EU response”.

The MEPs are calling on EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans to propose an EU Anti-SLAPP Directive that will include:


  • The ability for investigative journalists and independent media to request that vexatious lawsuits in the EU be expediently dismissed and claim compensation;
  • The establishment of punitive fines on firms pursuing these practices when recourse is made to jurisdictions outside the EU;
  • The setting up of a SLAPP fund to support investigative journalists and independent media that choose to resist malicious attempts to silence them and to assist in the recovery of funds due to them;
  • The setting-up of an EU register that names and shames firms that pursue these abusive practices.

“We are committed to the protection of investigative journalists and media freedom across the EU and will pursue this issue until Anti-SLAPP EU legislation is in place”, the MEPs stated.

Thomas Gibson from the Committee to Protect Journalists stated: “SLAPP is a serious threat to journalism and media freedom. These sums of money are in no way proportionate.  Independent journalists in Malta already face enormous challenges and restrictions.  Critical journalism must not be stifled. In addition to pushing for full justice of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Commission needs to address the climate in which investigative journalists work in the country.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said: “Having a media that is free to investigate corruption and abuse of power – and free to publish the results of those investigations – is fundamental to democracy. These vexatious law suits – deliberately aimed at preventing journalists from carrying out such work – must be stopped.”

Quote by Benedek Jávor on today’s Commission decision in the Paks II state aid case

The European Commission has today concluded that Hungary’s support for the Paks II nuclear project constitutes State Aid. The Commission has nonetheless approved the support on the basis of commitments made by the Hungarian government, which they say will limit market distortion.

Commenting on the decision, Hungarian MEP and Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor said:

“Despite the Hungarian government’s repeated denials, the European Commission has confirmed that the Paks II project will benefit from State Aid. By doing so, the Commission effectively concedes the underlying economic weakness of the project. We remain of the view that Hungary has not demonstrated that this project will avoid undue distortions of the Hungarian and regional energy markets and we will be strongly supportive of any appeal, as is apparently being considered by the Austrian government.

“With the Hungarian state to be the owner, financer, operator and regulator of the new nuclear power plant, there is a clear problem of concentration of power. Competition and public procurement rules must be applied evenly across the entire energy market, and the nuclear industry must be no exception. With nuclear representing more than a quarter of the EU’s current energy production, this decision will severely undermine confidence that the Energy Union and the internal electricity market represent a level playing field.”

Comitology – Commission proposal would do little for accountability or public health

The European Commission has today published its long-awaited proposal for the reform of the comitology process, used to approve or renew products, such as GMOs and pesticides (see background below). The proposal comes after a series of “no opinion” conclusions from standing committees, due to a number of member states consistently abstaining.

Commenting on the proposals, Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor said:

“While we are pleased that the Commission is finally taking action, the proposals announced today fall far short of what is needed. They are merely tinkering with a system that needs to be completely overhauled. The decision making process must be made more accountable and much more transparent. For this to be achieved, decisions should fall to the governments of the EU member states and the European Parliament.”

Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes added:

“We have seen time and time again that important decisions on GMOs and pesticides are being taken behind closed doors. Give these decisions, as in the recent case of glyphosate, carry significant health implications, they need to be made more openly. The Commission would clearly like to have greater political backing for the approval of GMOs and pesticides, but these proposals will simply mask the political disputes linked to GMO authorisations in the EU.”


The Commission suggests four targeted amendments:

  1. The qualified majority (55% of Member States representing 65% of population) in the appeal committee will be calculated only on the basis of the number of Member States taking part in the vote (either in favour or against), while abstentions would carry no voting weight at all.
  2. Transparency of the votes in the appeal committee
  3. When no opinion is reached either in Standing Committee or in appeal Committee, there will be the possibility of a second referral to the Appeal Committee where Member States are represented at Ministerial level
  4. Introduction of a right for the Commission to refer the matter to Council for a non-binding opinion/position

Interview with Benedek Jávor: Hungarian argument for Paks II nuclear project is invalid

Below is Euractive’s original interview with MEP, Benedek Jávor in its entirety:

There are players in the game who are ready to take the Pak II case to the European Court of Justice – and I am one of them, Benedek Jávor told EurActiv Czech Republic.

Benedek Jávor is a Hungarian Green and one of the complainants against the Paks II Nuclear Power Plant project.

Jávor spoke to EurActiv.cz’s Adéla Denková.

The European Commission has recently closed the infringement procedure launched against Hungary over compliance with public procurement laws in the Paks II Nuclear Power Plant project. This means that Hungary was not obliged to announce a public tender for the power plant’s construction and that the agreement with Russia does not violate European law. You are one of the critics of Paks II. What do you think about the decision?

According to European rules, there might be certain exceptions to EU public procurement law in the event of existing technical requirements that make it impossible to announce a public tender. The Hungarian government argued that there was no need for a tender in the case of Paks II, because Hungarian regulations and technical standards make it impossible for anyone other than Rosatom to construct the plant. The European Commission accepted this so-called “technical exclusivity” explanation, but I believe it is not a valid argument for several reasons.

Why do you think the explanation provided by Budapest is invalid?

A nuclear power plant is not a bicycle that you buy in one piece. It’s always a tailor-made project constructed in compliance with local regulations. Initially, none of the designs provided by nuclear technology companies meet the requirements of any state, but the winner of a tender will then modify its design according to the country’s individual specifications.

Okay, but the decision suggests that Rosatom is somehow more eligible for the project.

We don’t know whether the other possible suppliers of nuclear technology could have met the criteria, as this has never been established, but according to a recent article in Politico at least Westinghouse was interested in submitting a bid. One thing is for sure, though: not even Rosatom had been able to meet Hungary’s requirements initially. The Hungarian government’s special envoy for the Paks II project, Attila Aszódi, personally stated that several hundred modifications to the original Russian design have been required in order to comply with Hungarian regulations.

Flawed regulation

You said there are other arguments supporting your criticisms of the agreement. What are they?

If we are to accept the government’s technical exclusivity argument, meaning that Hungary’s strict regulations made a public tender unnecessary for the Paks II project because only one supplier could meet them, this means that the regulation itself violates European law. There have been a series of cases at the European Court of Justice which clearly demonstrate that any regulation restricting the market without a compelling reason should be phased out.

The implication for Paks II is as follows: if EU public procurement law permits non-tendering under technical exclusivity, then there is a strong case for launching an infringement procedure against those national regulations which gave rise to a non-competitive technical exclusivity scenario.

Are you going to pursue this argument?

There are players in the game who are ready to take the case to the European Court of Justice, and I am one of them. The question of the tendering or non-tendering of a project may be brought to the Court only by market competitors. But if a case concerns a discrepancy between European and national law, then as an MEP I am entitled to bring it myself. And the Commission must know that if the case is taken to the Court, they can easily lose it.

You were the complainant against the agreement between Budapest and Moscow. What is the history of this case?

The investigation into a possible violation of EU public procurement law was based on a complaint I submitted in 2014, and in November 2015 the Commission announced an infringement procedure over the project’s non-tendering. In the opening letter of the infringement procedure, they stated that Paks II fell under the EU’s public procurement regulation and that an international tender should have been conducted. Almost a year later – in August last year – I received a letter from the Commission outlining a compromise with Hungary which followed a completely different line of reasoning, based on the arguments made by Budapest.

Another strange aspect of the compromise is the fact that this argument apparently occurred to the Hungarian government only at the very end of the procedure. For years, they were not aware that no one else could meet the Hungarian standards and that this was the reason they didn’t conduct a public tender. They used completely different reasoning and never mentioned technical exclusivity until the Commission had rejected all the other arguments. It was only two years after granting the project to the Russians that they suddenly realised that only Rosatom could meet the Hungarian standards.

Expensive power

Another investigation has been launched against Paks II, this time concerning state aid. Do you think the project can survive without financial support from the government? 

Since the very beginning, I have pointed out that the new nuclear power plant at the Paks site would be problematic not only with respect to security, safety and environmental considerations, but also from a budgetary perspective. If current market prices for electricity persist, the project will never pay for itself and will clearly need substantial state aid in order to survive. In addition to the infringement procedure concerning public procurement rules, November 2015 – which was a black month for Paks II – also saw the Commission announce an in-depth investigation into possible state aid in the project.

The Hungarian government endeavoured to convince the Commission that there was no need for state aid. The government commissioned a study, carried out by Rothschild & Cie, which concluded that the project was able to generate fair profits and would pay for itself. This conclusion was broadly communicated by the government. The more interesting part is that according to the study – and this has not been publicised very extensively – Paks II would pay for itself only if electricity prices in the EU market were to double over the next couple of years. No one is actually anticipating this, however.

But aren’t experts expecting a certain increase in electricity prices during this period? 

Prices on the EU electricity market have been low for quite a long time, and the indicators we have do indeed lead us to expect a slight price rise in the next couple of years. But here we’re talking about 20 or 30%, which is very far from a doubling of the price. And following this increase we’ll likely see another decline in wholesale electricity prices because the costs of renewable energy sources keep falling. The above-mentioned study is therefore based on an unrealistic set of assumptions.

Do you have any information about the Commission’s view on the state aid case?

There has been no official communication in this regard, but according to the information we have the Commission may conclude that the project’s estimated costs and estimated incomes are out of balance, and that there will be a clear deficit during its operational life. If they insist on this point, then Budapest will have to accept it.

Still, the Commission could rule that Hungary may provide financial support to the power plant under certain conditions. 

Indeed, the European Commission may accept the need for state aid if special circumstances obtain on the Hungarian power market and the government is unable to resolve the situation in another way. In my view, however, such a deal could also be taken to the Court, and the Commission would be unable to defend it. There’s no proof that constructing a nuclear power plant is the only way to solve the ostensible problems on Hungary’s electricity market. Actually, no one has ever investigated alternative solutions, and the Hungarian government’s estimates of expected total electricity consumption in 2030 and other indicators are based on unrealistic data.

Do you have any estimates regarding the amount of money that could be provided to the project?

According to my calculations and independent assessments, the required state aid may be as much as HUF 100 billion (€300 million) per year. These are conservative numbers, and other estimates range as high as HUF 250 billion annually. Just for comparison, the incomes of the existing nuclear power plant in Paks do not exceed HUF 180 billion per year. And remember: these figures aren’t profits, but total incomes. This suggests that the Paks II project will need state aid in an amount close to the existing power plant’s total incomes and perhaps even exceeding them.

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that in the last 15 or 20 years none of the nuclear power plant projects in the EU have been completed on time, and total construction costs have been double their initial budgets on average.

Future of the EU power market

On the other hand, investors are currently having a hard time on the European energy market. The general view is that it’s not profitable to invest one’s money into any kind of energy source without state aid. Why then is financial support for a nuclear power plant such a problem? 

The EU electricity market is currently undergoing a transition, and it’s very difficult to say exactly what it will look like in future. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that the market is becoming much more flexible and will be based increasingly on local small-scale installations. The age of big utilities is over, and baseload generation will no longer play an important role.

You’re right that current electricity prices do not send the right signal to investors. As I have already mentioned, in the next couple of years we’ll most likely see a price increase that will facilitate new investments into energy infrastructure and generation capacities. But that’s not the question: you have to look at the levelized costs of different energy sources. In renewables, costs are declining very quickly. We can also mention natural gas power plants, the construction of which is much cheaper than that of nuclear power plants. This is why, once prices rise, it will still be much more profitable to invest in renewable sources or natural gas.

Do you believe the energy system will be based on renewables and gas in future? 

When you have a large proportion of renewables in your energy mix, you also need flexible energy sources to provide grid regulation. Natural gas power plants are a good fit here, but in the long run even natural gas could be phased out of the system, which will be based on renewables and a high degree of demand-side management, in other words smart technologies and energy efficiency. I cannot see any place for nuclear power plants in such an energy system.

In a nutshell, the trouble with nuclear investments is not a question of tendering or non-tendering. I wouldn’t be satisfied with Westinghouse, EDF, KHNP or any other company winning the tender, because their nuclear power plants would incur the same or even higher costs. With or without a public tender, there will be serious problems with profitability, because nuclear energy is no longer competitive.

Indeed, I don’t believe it ever was competitive; I think it only survived thanks to hidden subsidies. In Hungary, for example, we don’t actually know the real cost of the Paks I nuclear power plant built in the 1980s, because economic relations between the USSR and Hungary at that time were based on barters. With some exaggeration, one could say that we paid for the nuclear power plant with cans of green peas. Anyway, I think Hungary’s high level of indebtedness in the 1980s was closely linked to the construction of Paks I.

On the subject of natural gas, one always comes to the question of energy security. Europe depends on fuel imports, and nuclear power is generally considered more secure in this regard. 

In terms of energy security, building a new nuclear power plant would not be much better in this case. It will be the Russians who will construct it. It uses Russian technology and will be dependent on Russian fuel. Russia will provide a € 10 billion intergovernmental loan to Hungary, which creates a financial leash between the two countries. The Hungarian prime minister may be of a different opinion, but I’m convinced that it’s really dangerous to be dependent on Russia in several ways.

Couldn’t another fuel supplier be found?

The question of fuel dependency was raised by the European Commission, and the Euratom Supply Agency refused to counter-sign the first draft of the agreement on Paks II between Budapest and Moscow, as they considered the 20-year exclusivity provision for the Russians to supply the new power plant with fuel to be unacceptable. Ultimately, they agreed that this period would be shortened to 10 years, after which there would have to be an open tender for a new supplier.

This looks fine on paper, but in reality there’s no other supplier for this type of Russian nuclear power plant. The first third-generation VVER reactors only started operation in 2016 in Russia. It’s expensive for a nuclear technology company to develop a new type of nuclear fuel, and this will be a small market with most of the reactors operating in Russia or Belarus, which means that no market player will be willing to develop fuel of this type for just Paks in Hungary and Hanhikivi in Finland.

I have also been telling the Commission for two years now that they cannot approach the Paks case as an isolated Hungarian issue. Once they sign off on the agreement with Budapest, they will be flooded by demands from other member states to approve similar deals. This would completely destroy the EU energy market. If tens of thousands of megawatts of energy generation capacities in Europe are exempted from the common rules, then – I’m sorry to say – we can forget about a single market.

What the Hungarians think

Recently, you submitted another complaint against Paks II. Does this one concern market conditions? 

This is a question I raised in September at the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Bratislava, and the investigation by the European Commission is still in its early stages.

What is the essence of your complaint? 

The Hungarian government and certain people at the Commission argue that the Euratom Treaty creates a completely independent legal framework, and that nuclear investments are therefore exempt from EU competition and public procurement law. This is very dangerous. My complaint concerns Article 8 of the Electricity Market Directive, which states that there should be a capacity tender announced in each and every case where a government claims there is a risk of a capacity gap on the national market and therefore it seeks to actively intervene in order to solve the problem.

This is fine, but they have to open a public capacity tender that is technologically neutral, meaning that it does not require a particular technology. No such tender was ever announced in Hungary, and thus, in this case it is not the non-tendering of the project which violates EU law, but rather the non-tendering of the capacity. And with respect to this latter issue the Euratom Treaty has no bearing.

What do people in Hungary think about Paks II? Is it a major issue in the public debate? How is it perceived? 

I started my activities in the area of energy policy 15 years ago when I worked at an NGO. Just six or seven years ago when we were campaigning against nuclear energy, we were seen as crazy extremists. There was a consensus among 80% of society that nuclear energy was a good thing. In just a few years’ time, however, we managed to raise public awareness of the problem of profitability, and then the Fukushima accident focused attention on questions of security and safety.

Suddenly, the issue of nuclear energy became completely political. Government supporters became great friends of Russia. The same people who took to the streets in 2008 to protest against the then prime minister’s gas supply deals with Russia have now become best friends with Mr Putin. They consider any statement against Paks II to be a statement against the Hungarian nation.

More importantly, however, most of the public is now convinced that Paks II is an insane project that will create financial dependency on Russia, will never pay for itself, and will be harmful to the environment and future generations. Moreover, those journalists who were clearly pro-nuclear seven or eight years ago have changed their minds.

If one takes into consideration the government’s aggressive propaganda efforts, it’s a significant achievement that there is now a broad consensus among 50 or 60% of the population that we don’t need this project. The government is well aware of this, which is why they blocked a referendum on the issue. They may not be paying attention to it now, but in the long run, they will have to come to terms with the fact that most Hungarians no longer believe in the project.

ITCO, UNODC and GRECO say to European Commission: Open Up !

Strasbourg, 14 December 2016

Today, representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe and the transparency intergroup of the European Parliament (ITCO) appeal on the European Commission to finally start reporting about its anti-corruption policies.

Co-chair of the ITCO-intergroup, Dennis de Jong: ́ We were told by the European Commission that early this year, the European Parliament would receive its second anti-corruption report. In the meantime, all we received was a disappointing letter from Vice-President Timmermans that the report would be submitted in due course and that it would not contain a section on the internal anti-corruption policies of the European institutions themselves. I therefore welcome the idea of asking GRECO to submit its evaluation on anti-corruption policies of the EU and its Member States, so that the Commission can finally make some pro gress in this regard ́.

The appeal also addresses the concerns of UNODC and GRECO. De Jong: ́I t is embarrassing that until now the Commission has refrained from participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism under the UN Convention against Corruption, to which the EU is a party. I praise the patience of UNODC and its offer the assist the Commission in this respect. I urge the Commission to step up its efforts and to set the right example to the international community, instead of lagging behind as it did until now. Similarly, the EP should receive as soon as possible a full legal analysis of the obstacles the Commission is facing in becoming a party to the GRECO-mechanism of the Council of Europe. Also in this regard, sw ift progress has to be made ́.

Appeal on European Commission: Open Up!

  1. We are concerned about the lack of progress made by the European Commission in respect of its reporting activities on anti-corruption policies and measures, not only of Member States, but also of the EU-institutions themselves.
  2. We are disappointed that the second anti-corruption report of the European Commission, originally due for early this year, has not come out yet and we call upon the Commission to provide the European Parliament with a comprehensive report, including measures taken by the EU-institutions themselves, without further delay.
  3. We invite the Commission to examine ways to speed up the preparations for EU-membership of GRECO, the Council of Europe ́s mechanism to monitor compliance of its members (including all EU Member States) with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards. Similarly, we call upon the Commission to speed up the preparations for its participation in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). We understand that there may be legal obstacles to overcome, but we demand transparency in this respect and invite the Commission to publish a legal analysis of the problems and possible solutions.
  4. In the meantime, we invite the Commission to explore, together with GRECO, possibilities for developing a pilot project, in which the EU participates, on a purely voluntary basis, in GRECO ́s review process in order to become acquainted with the procedures.
  5. We note that the Commission stated as one of the reasons for not being able to report on anti-corruption policies and measures that it cannot really critically evaluate its own measures. We therefore invite GRECO to offer support in this respect by providing the Commission with a targeted evaluation.
  6. We recall that in its Resolution of 25 October 2016, the European Parliament called upon the Commission to meet its reporting obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to which the EU has become a party, and also to do its utmost to contribute financially to the technical assistance programme of the UN in the context of the Convention.
  7. We welcome the offer made by UNODC to assist the Commission with fulfilling its reporting obligations and with participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UNCAC, so that the Commission could make itself acquainted with the monitoring procedures.
  8. The Members of the European Parliament, participating in the Intergroup Integrity, Transparency, Corruption and Organised Crime stand ready to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the European Commission on all of these issues, together with representatives from the Council of Europe and the UNODC.

Joint appeal of the ITCO intergroup and the UNOCD.

Nature Directives: Commission commits to Action Plan to ensure full compliance

Following an orientation debate held today by the College of Commissioners, the European Commission has confirmed it will develop an Action Plan to improve implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives (Nature Directives) and their coherence with other EU policies.

The Greens/EFA group – speaking with the same voice as NGOs and key Member States – has been advocating against opening the Directives up to revision, and has called instead for a focus on addressing enforcement problems.

After long delays in the refit process of the Directives, strongly criticised by the European Parliament, today’s orientation debate indicates that the Commission is finally willing to conclude the refit exercise and come up with the final results of the fitness check. The State of Nature report (1), also used in the process, makes it clear that EU enforcement action has been instrumental in better implementation of the Nature Directives so far. However, more needs to be done to ensure full compliance.

Commenting after today’s orientation debate, Greens/EFA MEP and Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Benedek Jávor said:

“We very much welcome the commitment of the Commission to develop an Action Plan to correct the implementation deficiencies related to the Nature Directives. This is something that we have previously called for (2).

“It is important to go beyond guidelines and provide effective support to national and regional actors and improve environmental inspections, including through competence and capacity building and better allocation of resources.

“In order to ensure policy integration, we must also strengthen the environmental liability directive and make sure all infrastructural developments are fitted with proper environmental safeguards.

“Last, but not least, the EU cannot leave financing investments solely to local actors.  Biodiversity has to be mainstreamed in the EU budget beyond 2020, with natureconservation earmarked in each individual EU funding instrument as well as a dedicated biodiversity scheme. This would require further extension of the LIFE programme.”

(1) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4965_en.htm

(2) http://www.greens-efa.eu/eu-nature-legislation-16307.html

Paks II: Questionable decision; further legislative debates to be expected

According to MEP Benedek Jávor, today’s decision by the European Commission on closing the infringement procedure on the lack of tendering in the case of the construction of Paks II did not come as a surprise but is bad news for Hungarian tax-payers and it projects further legislative debates.
During summer Mr. Jávor was already talking about a soon-concluding agreement between the European Commission and the Hungarian government. At the same time, based on a letter sent by the EC in August to Mr. Jávor as a complainant, he believes that the decision is based on false information and flawed legal interpretation and it will result in more legal debates. This means that the debate on Paks II is far from being closed, all the more so because the procedure on illegal state aid in the project is still ongoing.
“For a more thorough analysis on the closing of the infringement procedure, we need to see its details. I am looking forward to the decision’s detailed reasoning, which the European Commission will send to me as the complainant, and which should be made public”, said the representative MEP for Dialogue for Hungary. At the same time, he believes that if the Commission’s reasoning was that evading the rules of procurement was possible because apart from the Russians nobody was able to comply with the Hungarian technical and security requirements, then the EC’s decision will probably mean even more challenges for the Paks project, the Hungarian government and the European Commission itself as well. Because, if the reasoning of the decision is based on the above, then the Hungarian regulation may be contravening to the principles of the internal market that are considered the basis of the EU. And this could also have severe consequences.
According to Benedek Jávor, Paks II is severely harmful for Hungary not only financially, but in terms of energy policy and external affairs as well, and so he will keep doing everything it takes in order to defend the country from such threats. In response to János Lázár’s comments, Mr. Jávor thanked the minister’s advice and said he would take it into consideration, however he expressed bad news for Mr. Lázár, as he would keep working with the same determination and effort. He knows that this would cause problems for the minister – as it did hitherto – but he expressed a genuine hope that the minister would cope with the difficulties.

Greens’ letter to Commissioner Moscovici calling for the prohibition of patent boxes

Dear Commissioner Moscovici,

On behalf of the Greens / EFA group, we would like to draw your attention on patent boxes, an important mechanism identified by the Commission itself as a risk to facilitate aggressive tax planning in Europe.

Patent or innovation boxes are a type of preferential tax regime, specific to the European Union and multiplying among Member States. Currently, 12 countries grant or are preparing to grant patent boxes or equivalent schemes(1), which could facilitate tax avoidance rather than genuinely encouraging the promotion of R&D in these countries. As you know, the allocation of intellectual property rights is key for tax matters but unfortunately is not always linked to where real economic activity takes place.

In 2014 the Code of Conduct for Business Taxation Group found all existing patent boxes harmful and agreed that, in order to address this problem, these preferential regimes should be based on the OECD “modified nexus approach”. This means that there must be a direct link between the tax benefits and the underlying research and development activities.

In its June 2015 Action Plan on Corporate Taxation, the Commission committed to carefully monitor how Member States implement the modified nexus approach and whether their patent box regimes are in line with the new approach. The Commission also took the commitment that if, within 12 months, Member States are not applying this new approach consistently, it will prepare binding legislative measures on this issue(2).

As the deadline of June 2016 is now ending, we would like to ask you, as Commissioner for taxation, to provide us with the outcome of your monitoring. It has been brought to our attention that several countries are delayed in the implementation of the modified nexus approach. Furthermore, despite a general commitment in 2014 to do so, France now claims that it will not rollback its patent box scheme as mentioned in the latest ECOFIN conclusions(3).

As recently reconfirmed by the report of the TAX2 Special Committee(4), investigating the Luxleaks scandal, we urge you to come forward with a binding legislative proposal on patent and innovation boxes. As Greens, we believe that patent boxes should be gradually phased out and prohibited in the next five years. Your services, as well as the OECD or the IMF, seem to confirm that patent boxes are not the right tool to foster R&D in Europe(5). We call on you to propose this new legislative proposal under Article 116 of the Treaty as Member States have been consulted since 2013 on the matter but such consultation did not result in an agreement fully eliminating the distortion of competition created by patent box schemes.

1 The following countries are: Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. 2http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/company_tax/fairer_corporate_taxation/com_ 2015_302_en.pdf

3 Report of the Code of Conduct Group to ECOFIN, 13 June 2016, 9912/16 FISC 97 ECOFIN 558
4 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160621IPR33011/MEPs-call-for-tax-haven-black-list-patent- box-rules-CCCTB-and-more
5 https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/system/files/ged/28-taxud-study_on_rnd_tax_incentives_-_2014.pdf

Brussels, 30 June 2016

The fight against corporate tax avoidance has increased considerably in the EU over the past years and we congratulate the Commission for the leadership it has taken on this matter. Taking a bold move on patent boxes would send a strong signal to Member States that the Commission remains committed to close harmful tax regimes in Europe to ensure a fairer corporate tax system.

Yours sincerely,

Max Andersson, Sweden Margrete Auken, Denmark Pascal Durand, France
Bas Eickhout, the Netherlands, Sven Giegold, Germany

Heidi Hautala, Finland
Maria Heubuch, Germany Yannick Jadot, France
Benedek Javor, Hungary
Eva Joly, France
Philippe Lamberts, Belgium Ernest Maragall, Spain
Michel Reimon, Austria
Michèle Rivasi, France
Molly Scott Cato, United Kingdom Bart Staes, Belgium
Joseph-Maria Terricabras, Spain Ernest Urtasun, Spain

ITCO Press Statement – Trade Secrets Directive hampers prevention of corruption

Today, the Trade Secrets Directive was adopted during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The highly contested directive harms the protection of whistleblowers and hinders the work of investigative journalists and trade unionists. The ITCO intergroup regrets that the European Commission does not attribute a more prominent role to whistleblowers and investigative journalists in the struggle against corruption.


The public consultation held by the European Commission, clearly indicated that the Trade Secrets Directive lacks public support: citizens trade unions, civil society organizations and SME’s reacted negatively. Although several improvements have been made in comparison to the original proposal, the final proposal still burdens the journalist, the whistleblower or the trade unionist with the obligation to prove that he or she acted in the realm of the (restricted) freedom of expression, for the purpose of the general public interest, or as part of helping workers’ representatives in their legitimate exercise of their representative functions. These strict conditions, combined with a very broad definition of ‘trade secrets’, restrict the possibilities of whistleblowers to be acknowledged and for journalists and unionists to do their work properly.


Consequentially, disclosing information on practices that may not be illegal but are yet undesirable, such as tax avoidance, will become more easily punishable. Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the ITCO intergroup comments: ”One would think that after Luxleaks, the Panama papers and Dieselgate, in which whistleblowers or investigative journalists have played a crucial role in revealing crucial information, the Commission would do anything to stimulate the important role of whistleblowers and investigative journalists. Instead, the Commission subordinates the struggle against corruption to the interests of multinationals. Antoine Deltour, who revealed the Luxleaks scandal, is already facing criminal charges against him, and the directive will undermine his position.


Benedek Javor, ITCO bureau member adds:

“We as Greens wanted to reject the proposal or at least delay the vote until the directive can be packaged with a Whistleblower Protection Directive. Adopting a text that creates a situation where secrecy is the legal norm for companies’ internal information and transparency is the exception is clear proof of the European Commission preference of corporate interest over the public interest, as also shown most recently by the glyphosate authorization.”


(Image source: itcointergroup.eu)

Whistleblower protection

It is difficult to imagine corruption without the contribution of players who have the ability to abuse resources – mostly public resources – for the purpose of generating a private; only people with some kind of power in their hands are able to act as such. In order to prevent those powerful people from misusing public money we need people to counter them. Today, we cannot talk about a serious anti-corruption policy without meaningful protection for these brave men and women.

Whistleblowers play an important role in a democracy ensuring vital information in the public interest is brought to light. The level of the extent to which legal means and guarantees that serve to protect whistleblowers as well as the level of specially protected reporting channels are shockingly uneven when it comes to the different Member States. In view of the anomalies of different regulations, the weakness of national institutions, and recent atrocities and lawsuits brought against whistleblowers, it is high time that whistleblowers were guaranteed protection minimum across Europe.

The resolution voted by the EP in March on the report on the fight against fraud has demanded the Commission to propose legislation to this end and stop stalling.

Strasbourg, 29th April 2015

Benedek Jávor MEP