European Robin Hood Tax gets the green light

Adam Musgrave

Blog post by Adam Musgrave

Oxfam International, Health and Education Campaigner
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Over the last few weeks, Europe has moved one step closer to a Robin Hood Tax. The European Commission gave the green light for a group of 11 countries, including many of the continent’s biggest economies, to move ahead on a European Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). 

It's hard to believe that in three short years this idea has travelled from the back woods of Sherwood to the board rooms of Government. And we couldn't have done it without Oxfam supporters around the world. Here is everything you need to know about why this is a big deal:

Which countries have signed up to the tax?

Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia. The Netherlands are late-comers to the party, but last week signaled their intention to join the coalition too under certain conditions.

What does 'signing up' mean?

Not all countries in Europe want to implement a Financial Transaction Tax, but as long as enough countries are interested, they can forge ahead anyway. It's called the 'Enhanced Cooperation Procedure'. There's a minimum requirement for nine countries to kick-start this process, and 11 are currently on board.

How much will be raised?

It could raise up to €37 billion a year - big money that can make a big difference, as this Robin Hood Tax infographic shows.

What are the next steps?

Last week, the European Commission confirmed that all legal conditions have been met and that the countries can now proceed. They also indicated that part of the revenue should be spent on “growth-promoting activity or to meet development aid commitments.”

So, what next? There are two hurdles to jump before the tax can be agreed: it must pass a vote in the European Council and get approval by the European Parliament. Supportive EU Member States will then need to agree between themselves on the design of the tax.

Will the money go to fighting poverty and climate change?

This is the big question – will it be just a new tax, or go towards fighting poverty and climate change and be worthy of the name Robin Hood? It's up to each country to decide and some leaders have already been flashing their green tights and saying this is possible.

La Taxe Robin des Bois?

In the mean time, some countries aren’t waiting around. France has already started their own financial transaction tax, which is expected to raise €1.6 billion a year. Earlier in the Autumn, President Hollande committed to allocating 10% of the money to good causes.  But that promise is in danger of being broken if the French budget is anything to go by; it states that in 2013, only €60 million of FTT revenue (just 3.7%)  will end up being spent on development, specifically HIV/AIDS funding and water and sanitation projects.

Whilst the budget does state that the 10% target will be reached by 2015 (and some of this money will be allocated to the Climate Fund in 2014), Oxfam France will be holding President Hollande’s feet to the fire to ensure that the French FTT really is a Robin Hood Tax. 

And this is a sign of things to come. With the technical and political feasibility of a European Financial Transaction Tax now beyond doubt, the big question is how the money will be spent. We’ll be campaigning to make sure Europe uses the FTT revenues to do more than plug holes in domestic budgets, but help poor people who have been hit hardest by the economic crisis and climate change.

Join the Robin Hood Tax campaign. Sign the petition.