One tax to rule them all: How Macron sees the future of the EU

One tax to rule them all: How Macron sees the future of the EU
Photo: AFP
From taxes on internet giants to six-month stints for European students in neighbouring countries, French President Emmanuel Macron set out wide-ranging proposals for EU reforms on Tuesday. And he even believes there is a place for the UK.

New bodies, less bureaucracy

Macron pitched a less bureaucratic, simplified European Union — saying that when he was done with his reforms, he could not imagine Britain not wanting to be a part of the union.

He outlined an ambitious overhaul of the institutions of the 19-member eurozone, giving it its own finance minister and a budget that could be invested on infrastructure and other big projects.

These ideas previously had the cautious backing of his key European partner, Chancellor Angela Merkel, but that was before Germany's election in which Merkel's party suffered heavy losses at the hands of eurosceptics.

Beyond the eurozone, Macron suggested a string of new organisations, some of which have already been mooted by the EU.

He called for a European prosecutor to investigate cross-border terrorism and for a new EU-wide asylum agency — reprising ideas put forward by the European Commission.

He also proposed a new border police force to deal with the migrant crisis and oversee the return of failed asylum seekers. It was not clear how such a body would work with the EU's current border guard and coastguard force.

And he wants a new innovation agency that would work on developing technologies like artificial intelligence.

More broadly he said Europe was already “multi-speed” — with some countries seeking closer integration than others — “and we shouldn't be afraid to say this and to want it”.

Closer defence ties 

Macron proposed setting up an armed “rapid response force” to defend the EU as well as a shared defence budget and common military strategy.

The bloc approved the idea of a rapid response force a decade ago but it was never deployed. Macron would want to see it relaunched by 2020.

Separately he is seeking a joint EU civil defence force that could respond to natural disasters such as the hurricanes that hit European overseas territories in the Caribbean in recent weeks.

Big tax plans

Macron devoted a significant part of his speech to setting out ideas for tax reforms, seeking to harmonise rules across the EU.

In a move likely to raise ire from low-tax countries like Ireland, he proposed a single corporate tax band by 2020, saying members who refused to implement it should have their aid from Brussels cut.

Macron also wants a new type of tax on technology giants like Facebook and Apple, based on how much value they create in a country rather than the profits they record there.

And he called for a tax on financial transactions to pay for overseas aid, reigniting a long-running debate on expanding a levy already in place in France and Britain.

Finally, he wants a carbon tax on highly-polluting products entering Europe, as well as on industries that burn a lot of fossil fuels within the bloc.

Youngsters around Europe

Young people were at the heart of the speech, with Macron saying he wanted all students to spend six months in another European country learning their language and culture, and exploring the landscape.

The continent should aim for all students to speak two European languages by 2024, he said, proposing new European university networks that would make it easier to do bilingual degrees and study abroad.

More democracy

Macron wants “democratic conventions” organised across Europe within the next six months, to spark national and local debates around what citizens want from the EU.

He also wants transnational lists of MEPs from 2019 — using the quota left behind by Britain when its lawmakers head home after Brexit — with half of parliament to be elected from these lists from 2024.