Panama, riven by multiple financial and corruption scandals like the Panama Papers, Odebrecht, and Blue Apple has been included on the first blacklist of tax havens of the 28 member European Union.
The other countries named by the finance ministers of the block are American Samoa, Grenada, Bahrain, Barbados, Guam, South Korea, Macao, Marshall Islands Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
It is the last step of a complex process of negotiating balances that started in the EU two years ago.
The meeting of ministers on Tuesday, Dec 5 lasted several hours and the main obstacle for the agreement was the possibility of imposing sanctions on the named jurisdictions.
In February The EU set three common criteria to separate countries that cooperate and those that do not: the level of fiscal transparency, the degree of justice of its tax policy and the implementation of measures recommended by theOECD to avoid erosion of the tax base or practices of transfer of benefits.
The following month, the EU started a dialogue with Panama to try to avoid its inclusion in the list of tax havens.
The Panamanian government entity that led the technical talks with the Council of the European Union was the Directorate General of Revenue.
Alongside opening channels among tax experts, Panama scrambled to activate its political machinery and in March sent Vice President and Chancellor to Brussels to strengthen relations between the agency and Panama and to laud the country’s progress in transparency and the fight against tax evasion.
Panama signed several agreements and introduced changes in its domestic legislation to adapt itself to the new commitments
However, neither the diplomatic channel nor the commitment to the transparency standards set by the international community served to prevent the inclusion of Panama on the blacklist, reports La Prensa.
The EU presented the list of jurisdictions considered non-cooperative as a triumph that reinforces the European block against opaque practices.
“The ministers have finally adopted the first European list of tax havens. It’s a milestone important to me after two years of struggle. The main one comprises 17 countries whose commitments are insufficient despite 10 months of dialogue, “said the European Commissioner of Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici.
“It is not a punitive measure. Our wish is that these countries want to cooperate more in the future, “said Estonian Finance Minister Toomas Tõniste, who currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU., he added that the list will be revised and updated “in the coming years”, without specifying when.
A press release by the Council of the EU said the objective of the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions is to promote “good governance” globally to “Maximize efforts to avoid tax fraud and tax evasion.”