French commissioner could raise issues for Ireland’s corporate tax regime

Pierre Moscovici allocated ‘economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs’ portfolio

Phil Hogan: all set for his role as EU agriculture commissioner. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Phil Hogan: all set for his role as EU agriculture commissioner. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

Jean-Claude Juncker had promised “some surprises” when he announced the allocation of commission portfolios yesterday. He did not disappoint.

The appointment of Phil Hogan as agriculture commissioner was one of the few certainties in the hours before yesterday’s midday announcement in Brussels.

Amid the detail of the significantly reconfigured European Commission, one of the most significant developments for Ireland could be the decision to move tax from its own directorate-general and merge it with economic and financial affairs.

The appointment of former French finance minister Pierre Moscovici to the newly renamed portfolio “Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs” may be an uncomfortable development for Dublin given France’s traditionally hardline stance on Ireland’s corporate tax rate.

The decision to reduce the number of individual portfolios from 28 to 20 and instead create a number of vice-president roles with responsibility for co-ordination of specific policy areas has led to a realignment of portfolios.

Green criticism

Environmentalist campaigners, including the Green Party in Ireland, have criticised the decision to merge climate change and energy, and have raised concerns about the Spanish nominee’s links with the oil sector. Likewise the logic of fusing environment with fisheries has been questioned.

One of the big surprises in the carve-up of portfolios was the appointment of the Danish commissioner to the powerful competition portfolio. Margrethe Vestager, will have cases concerning Google and Russian oil giant Gazprom in her in-tray when she begins work.

The decision to appoint Pierre Moscovici to the economics role – announced just hours after new figures showed that France again missed its EU budget deficit targets – may be welcomed by proponents of greater fiscal flexibility, given France’s push for a let-up in the EU’s emphasis on fiscal austerity.

However, the appointment of two centre-right former prime ministers as vice-presidents with responsibility for economics suggests that Moscovici may be outnumbered when it comes to European economic policy.

The appointment of Lord Hill to the financial services portfolio was welcomed by Downing Street, given the importance of the City of London to the British economy, and in light of the ongoing tensions between London and Brussels over the remit of EU financial legislation.

It also shows a willingness by Juncker to engage with Britain, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s cutting campaign against his appointment as commission president earlier this year.

Germany and digital economy

Given German concerns about data privacy, the appointment was an interesting one, though former Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip will have ultimate responsibility for digital matters given his appointment as vice-president for the digital single market.

Swedish commissioner Cecilia Malmström is one of a number of women to secure senior jobs, with the returning Swedish commissioner securing the trade portfolio.

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