By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts — At the end of the 30th inter-sessional meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government, Community leaders vowed to speak with “one voice” against the European Union’s approach to what they determine “tax good governance” and has called the EU’s approach an “infringement on sovereignty and one that is coercive and harmful to the future of a key economic sector in CARICOM.”
This vow comes on the heels of the latest blacklisting of tax-havens by the EU back in mid-February of this year where Caribbean countries were a part of that new blacklist, inclusive of Panama, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and the US Virgin Islands.
Chairman of CARICOM and prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris, in a release said: “The arbitrary and shifting requirements of the EU’s tax requirements have considerable reputational damage to Caribbean countries which are irreparable and have consequential implications for building Member States’ economic and climate resilience given the region’s inherent vulnerabilities.”
Harris also added: “We do not think that it has the appeal of a democratic process or a consensual process and we take exception to that matter. Each time there is one problem [and] that problem is addressed, by the next time the EU comes around there is a second and third problem. So, the goal post keeps shifting in a way that makes management of the industry difficult and creates uncertainty.”
CARICOM secretary-general, Irwin LaRocque, also chimed in and affirmed that Caribbean countries must continue to use a united voice in reaching out to the EU, allied countries and countries outside the EU bloc to build their case against this matter.
LaRocque also said: “There comes a point when you have to say to them ‘if you’re not going to have some meaningful dialogue, if you are not going to have some understanding on the circumstances in which we are, then we’ll have to have recourse to other things. We have 14-member states that collectively when we act together, which is not infrequent, can have a voice internationally. We’ve done it before and we are seeking to see how we can do this again.”
LaRocque also said that the EU has taken it upon themselves set certain criteria which goes above and beyond criteria set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is the recognized international body that looks at matters of tax and good governance and in particular there has been very little or next to no dialogue between the EU and the countries they have decided to blacklist and has likened this ambush as an assault on the economies of the countries named because they depend heavily on international business services.
The United States, which has several protectorates on the EU blacklist, has already responded to the EU by stating the EU cannot possibly expect for the USA to cede to their demands or adhere to their blacklisting initiatives.
The Bahamas has gone on record as stating that they have done all they can do to remain compliant with the EU and are shocked to have been placed on the blacklist despite all of the cooperation and compliance given to the EU on these matters in the most recent past.