Pierre Moscovici
European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici attends a news conference in Paris, France, January 14, 2019. Image Credit: REUTERS

Paris: The European Union’s Economic Affairs commissioner said on Monday that it will be “difficult” for the bloc to agree unanimously on an EU-wide tax on high-tech giants by a self-imposed March deadline.

Speaking to reporters in Paris, Pierre Moscovici also said he would submit to his commission colleagues a proposal ending a veto that national governments hold on tax matters, which gives any government the power to torpedo even the least ambitious proposal on tax matters.

The veto provision had become “an obstacle” to dealing with global challenges, he said.

Ireland, Denmark and Sweden are opposed to Moscovici’s proposal for an EU directive taxing internet company’s turnover to ensure that global tech platforms like Facebook and Google pay their fair share.

France has been backing the idea as has Germany, with qualifications, but that will not be enough under the current system.

“It is clear that the French-German accord presented last December did not win unanimous support, neither on the day itself nor in the following days, so we must assume that while a joint solution is not impossible, it will be difficult to achieve by March,” Moscovici said.

Paris has argued the measure would be a vote-winning accomplishment for mainstream EU politicians ahead of the European Parliament elections in May, in which anti-Brussels populists could do well.

But Ireland, which hosts the European headquarters of several US tech giants, leads a small group of otherwise mostly Nordic countries that argue the tax will also punish European companies and stoke Washington’s anger.

Several EU countries, including France, Britain and Italy, are working on their own, national versions of a digital tax, a development the EU fears could result in a patchwork of schemes across the continent rather than a unified EU strategy.