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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 September, 2004, 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK
EU ministers clash on tax policy
By John Moylan
BBC correspondent in Scheveningen

Group photo of the EU finance ministers outside the venue for their talks
The ministers were trying to thrash out several topics
European finance ministers meeting in The Netherlands have clashed over proposals to coordinate tax policy throughout the 25 member countries.

There were wide divisions over the plans at the talks in Scheveningen.

Some countries fear the proposals could lead to EU rules governing how much tax companies pay, an issue currently the concern of national governments.

But there was agreement that the single currency, the euro, should have the same spelling throughout the EU.

France and Germany have been leading calls for rules to cover company taxation.

They complain that some of the new EU member states from Eastern Europe use lower rates to persuade companies to relocate factories and jobs.

The French Finance Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has even proposed that such countries are denied EU structural funds, although that is not a widely held view.

The UK and Ireland are among those who reject any interference in domestic taxation.

So in discussions on the matter, wide differences of opinion emerged. A working group will be now be established to consider the value of EU-wide rules on the areas of corporate activity that should be taxed.

Elsewhere, this meeting considered issues at the very heart of the European Union.

Euro spelling

On the future EU budget, ministers decided to move the debate on, from simply how much each country puts in. Instead, member states will decide what they believe the EU's spending priorities should be.

That could ultimately see more funds channelled into areas which promote growth and jobs.

There was some agreement too on proposed reforms to the rules which underpin the Euro. There is much more work to be done, but much of the original text is likely to remain intact.

The emphasis will be upon how it is implemented. And staying with the euro, the meeting concluded that, for legal reasons, Europe's single currency must be spelled the same in each of the official 20 EU languages.

It emerged that in some of the new EU countries - thought to include Latvia, Slovenia and Hungary - the spelling had deviated from the accepted norm of euro, leading to variations such as "eiro" and "evro".


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