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Estonian deputy minister: Investigative journalism helps prevent tax fraud

Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas speaking at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Nov. 14, 2017.
Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas speaking at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Nov. 14, 2017. Source: (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas on Tuesday spoke as a representative of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where matters pertaining to the recently leaked Paradise Papers were discussed.

 "The disclosure of documents by investigative journalists is beneficial to us all, as it draws attention to evasion and increases awareness as well as the understanding that scheming in regard to taxes is unethical and unfair," Maasikas said according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release.

The recently leaked Paradise Papers, which contain around 13.4 million documents related to tax havens, have brought the topic of tax optimization back into the spotlight, and the discussion in the European Parliament focused on the need to supplement tax-related legislation to avoid tax avoidance as well as strengthen tax-related cooperation between EU member states.

Maasikas noted that proposals have been made in cooperation between the Council of the EU and the European Commission to supplement tax legislation — such as the money laundering prevention regulation, for instance — and work on various tax-related legislative acts was already underway, such as taxation of the digital economy and an e-commerce VAT package. The e-commerce VAT package is expected to be approved by finance ministers at the next ECOFIN Council meeting in early December.

On the subject of the rule of law dialogue in Malta and the importance of freedom of the press, Maasikas said that member states and the EU in general should consider how to protect freedom of speech and cope with crises better. Commenting on the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in mid-October, Maasikas noted that Malta had responded quickly and decisively, involving the FBI, Europol and Dutch and Italian and experts in the investigation. He stressed that other member states were prepared to contribute in any way they could.

On Tuesday evening, Maasikas also spoke in his capacity as an Estonian EU presidency representative at a discussion of the upcoming Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit, which will be held on Nov. 24. "One of the goals of the Estonian presidency has been to highlight the importance of the EaP for the EU," the deputy minister said. "In October, Tallinn hosted the civil society and business forum, and the summit in Brussels in late November will send a strong message to EaP countries that their cooperation is appreciated and trusted."

On Wednesday, Maasikas will speak on behalf of the Council on the rule of law dialogue with Poland and possibilities for assisting refugees in the winter period. He will also sign 8 EU legal acts, and a longer discussion will center on the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and its consequences.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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