The EU has removed eight countries from its blacklist of tax havens in a decision that caused an outcry among NGOs. The eight countries (Panama, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Mongolia, Macao, Grenada and Barbados) were taken off the blacklist after making commitments to address the EU’s concerns, said the Council of Finance Ministers in a statement following a meeting in Brussels.
The eight countries in question have been moved from the blacklist to a greylist, reserved for those countries that have promised to clean up their tax structures. The countries will continue to be monitored and can be moved back onto the blacklist if EU Finance Ministers decide that they have failed to follow through on their commitments.
The addition of the eight new countries brings the number on the greylist to 47, leaving only nine jurisdictions on the blacklist – American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago.
The move has been strongly criticised by NGOs that campaign for tax justice. “The EU is rushing to take countries off the blacklist without it being clear what they have actually committed to improve; this is further undermining the process,” said Aurore Chardonnet, Oxfam’s EU policy adviser on tax and inequality. Chardonnet, also pointed highlighted the fact that the blacklist only includes non-EU member states, a number of which, she argues, would qualify as tax haven themselves.
“It is no secret that tax havens remain at the heart of the EU, with four European countries actually failing the EU’s own blacklisting criteria,” Chardonnet said. “EU governments should tackle tax havens within the EU with the same urgency they are pressuring other countries to adopt tax reforms that were decided by an exclusive club of rich countries.” she said.
The blacklist was drawn in response to public outrage over tax evasion scandals exposed by the “Panama” and “Paradise” Papers in 2016 and 2017.