Ireland remains opposed to the idea of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) though it is prepared to engage constructively with the European Commission on any new proposal that may be unveiled, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
The European Commission is due to relaunch the controversial CCCTB proposal – a harmonised corporate tax base for the European Union – as early as June, as it continues its clamp-down on corporate tax avoidance at an EU level.
Speaking in Brussels on his way into a two-day summit of EU leaders, the Taoiseach said that Ireland opposes the proposal as it currently stands.
“Ireland has always objected to the proposal that was on the table in respect of CCCTB as being unworkable and not a feasible proposition at all,” the Taoiseach said. “If the Commission comes forward with a new set of proposals we will engage with that constructively and see what it contains, but in respect of the proposal that was there, we’ve always said from the very beginning that this is not workable and we object to it.”
Mr Kenny also delivered strong words on Greece, warning that recent language used by members of the Greek government was "unacceptable."
"People are very encouraged to give Greece support and to give it its time and space to come forward with sustainable solutions, but there's a difference between political argument and disagreement and threats of releasing jihadists and terrorists in Europe. That's not acceptable," the Taoiseach said.
Greece's defence minister and leader of Syriza's junior coalition partner in government said earlier this month that Greece would "flood Europe with migrants" if its reform proposals are rejected, echoing comments by Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias who also warned of "tens of millions of immigrants and thousands of jihadists" if bailout negotiations fail.
Mr Kenny said the issue had been discussed at a pre-summit meeting of leaders from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels which he attended.
“There was quite a deal of comment at the EPP meeting from some members about the strength of language used by our Greek colleagues,” Mr Kenny said, adding that “time is running out” for Greece.
“The feeling among the political leaders is that Greece and the Greek politicians have got to face up to their political responsibilities here. The ball is in their court. The Prime Minister asked for time and space and he was been given that to come forward with sustainable and workable proposals, and obviously Greece needs to reflect on that now as time is running out.”
Though not formally on the agenda of the two-day summit of EU leaders, Greece is dominating discussion on the margins of the EU summit, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the heads of the European Commission, Council and European Central Bank this evening.
Tensions are persisting between Athens and its international lenders over financial support for Greece as the Greek government struggles to find common ground with lenders over reform proposals.
Arriving for the summit, the Greek Prime Minister said that the EU “needs more political initiatives that respect both democracy and its treaties so that we leave behind the crisis and move to growth.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel played down expectations of a deal, saying decisions were up to the eurogroup of finance ministers. “I want to say: don’t expect a solution, don’t expect a breakthrough. It’s not the right setting,” she told reporters on arrival at the summit. “Decisions are made in the eurogroup and that’s how it will remain.”
A number of Prime Ministers – including the leaders of Belgium and Luxembourg – have objected to the decision of European Council president Donald Tusk to hold a meeting with Tsipras on the fringes of the summit rather than discuss the issue among all 28 EU leaders.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he expected any discussions that take place at an informal level will come back into the Council “if not this evening then tomorrow.”
On Wednesday, Mr Tsipras lambasted EU lenders in the Greek Parliament ahead of a vote on a controversial bill designed to ease Greece's "humanitarian crisis" through the introduction of a number of anti-poverty measures including food stamps.
The vote took place following the leaking of a European Commission document urging Greece to re-think the proposed legislation.
“We will not be frightened,” Tsipras told the Parliament. “The Greek government is determined to stick to the February 20th agreement. However, we demand the same from our partners. Let them stop unilateral actions, respecting the agreement they signed.”
Greece received a temporary four-month extension from international lenders last month, though disagreements remain over the scale of reforms needed.
Negotiations between the three creditor institutions – the European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF – and the new Greek government began in earnest last week as Greece seeks to unlock some of the remaining €7.2 billion due to it under its bailout programme in return for reform measures.