Event: the EU and the fight against tax havens 

Publié: 25th mars 2021

Tomorrow, Oxfam is hosting a panel event on the EU and the fight against tax havens. The event brings together critical voices directly engaged in the current review process of the EU list of tax havens (EU governments, European Parliament and European Commission) and civil society (activists and journalists) whose work has helped to break the opacity of corporate structures and showcase the impact of tax havens in our societies.   

What: Webinar on “The EU and the fight against tax havens”   

Where: Online   

When: 26 March 2021, 11 - 13 CET   

In this webinar, we will ask: 

  • How widespread is the problem of tax havens and how does it impact countries across the globe? 

  • Is the current EU listing process fit for purpose and what does the EU need to improve? 

  • What is the role of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member states in the reform of the listing process? 


Why are tax havens bad? 

Tax havens are responsible for massive revenue losses of other countries. It is estimated that annually this amounts to over $427bn. Tax losses are equivalent to nearly 52 percent of the combined public health budgets in poor countries and it is 8 percent for rich countries. This is simply unacceptable. This money is needed now more than ever to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and build stronger health and social protection services. Peoples’ lives and livelihoods are at stake. 


What is the EU Tax Havens List? 

The EU created a tax havens list in 2017 building on a definition of harmful tax practices from 1997. The aim was to tackle the practice of big companies dodging their tax bills though tax havens. The strategy was to put pressure on countries that allow this practice encouraging blacklisted countries to change their tax rules. Today this list is outdated and civil society has showed its failure to identify real tax havens:  

  • European countries are immune from scrutiny despite acting as tax havens as shown by the recent Openlux investigation.  


Last year, the European Commission recognised that the process needs to be reformed and committed to update it. The European Parliament has also called for a better EU tax haven list. Member states at the Council level are discussing the reform and are expected to come forward with their proposal by the beginning of 2022.    


What does Oxfam want? 

Oxfam is calling for a more effective, accountable and coherent EU blacklist. This means strengthened criteria, a more transparent process and the same treatment of European and third countries. The EU should also consider the special circumstances of developing countries – the EU lists some developing countries for not living up to international standards despite them not having a voice at the international negotiating table and not having the capacity to implement these standards.  

Until we have this reform, corporations will continue to profit off flawed EU policies and use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  


Our speakers: 

Bastian Obermayer, Head of the Investigative Unit of Süddeutsche Zeitung and Panama Papers Reporter:  

“Every tax haven is causing invisible harm by letting tax money miraculously disappear, money that could be used for more hospitals, safer streets, better education and so much more”. 

Jane Nalunga, Country Director of the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) – Uganda: 

“Some of the listed top ten enablers of Corporate tax abuse are key investors in Africa; and have signed tax and investment treaties which have facilitated massive Illicit Financial Flows. These resources are urgently needed by governments especially during this COVID-19 period. There is a need therefore to address this vice through a UN Tax body”. 

Benjamin Angel, Director of Direct Taxation, Tax Coordination, Economic Analysis and Evaluation in DG TAXUD, European Commission: 

“The EU listing process has been instrumental in helping promote tax good governance and fighting tax evasion and avoidance internationally. It has contributed to the rolling back of more than 130 harmful regimes and to boosting transparency globally. We now need to look to the next steps, in particular reviewing the EU listing criteria, strengthening defensive measures and revising the geographical scope, to ensure that the EU list remains a relevant and useful tool as we move forward”. 

Paul Tang, Chair of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Tax Matters (FISC) and Member of the European Parliament:  

“In setting up the list of tax havens, EU countries forgot one thing: actual tax havens. With decisions taken behind closed doors, favouritism means countries can repeatedly miss deadlines for reforms without consequences. Currently only 2% of tax avoidance takes place through black-listed countries. The EU list is not living up to its potential. But when we look at others, we should also look at ourselves in the mirror. And what we see then isn't a pretty sight. EU countries are some of the world's biggest tax havens. We need to end these destructive practices within the EU. Especially now”. 

Morten Bødskov, Minister of Taxation, Denmark: 

“The EU-blacklist of Tax Havens must be strengthened. More relevant countries should undergo evaluation based on stricter criteria reflecting the highest international standards on tax transparency and fair taxation”. 

Oxfam EU tax experts will be available for comment before and after the webinar.    



Jade Tenwick | EU Media Officer | jade.tenwick@oxfam.org | mobile +32 473 56 22 60