sexta-feira, maio 30, 2008

Fuel prices: French proposal on fuel VAT gets EU cold shoulder

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal for a cap on VAT on fuel oil to alleviate the effects of the sudden hike in petroleum prices got a cold reception in the Union.
On 27 May, Sarkozy said that the EU should consider suspending VAT to help oil consumers. "VAT would no longer be applied at a certain price level," he explained.
Confronted with the uprising of his fishermen and the growing cry of his hauliers and farmers, he said that he was going to "pose the question" to his European partners. But he reiterated that decisions on taxation are made unanimously by member states. French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, furthermore, acknowledged that obtaining such an agreement would be a difficult exercise. Despite the scepticism of his partners on this matter, Sarkozy said again, on 28 May in Warsaw, that he is "staying the course". "It is a proposal and I want it to be studied before being rejected," Sarkozy told a press conference.
The European Commission quickly reacted by saying that Sarkozy's idea would send a "bad signal" to petrol producing countries. The Austrian Finance Minister, Wilhelm Molterer, said, on 28 May before the press in Vienna, that he thinks "nothing good" of the proposal.
The Portuguese Economy Minister, Manuel Pinho, asked the EU to debate, as a matter of urgency, measures which would "offset the impact of the increase in petroleum prices". In the short and medium term, it is necessary to find "measures which could minimise the negative effect of the increase in petroleum prices," writes the Portuguese minister in a letter sent to his Slovene counterpart, Andrej Vizjak, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and to the Vice-President of the European Commission, Gunter Verheugen.
Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders was reserved about the French president's idea of capping the VAT levied on petroleum products, judging that this measure would have "colossal costs". "We are ready to look into the question, but with a reduced rate there are colossal costs, in the region of a quarter of a billion euro in Belgium," Reynders told the agency Belga, stressing that the decrease "would perhaps not change the final price". However, he did defend the system adopted by Belgium, where additional VAT income during periods of high fuel prices is compensated through a drop in duty. "The Commission has never criticised us on the subject," he said.
Contrary to VAT, which varies according to the price billed, excise duty is in accordance with the quantity bought (payment of a given sum per litre sold).

European Report

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