EU blacklists 17 nations as tax avoidance havens

Raf Casert, Associated Press

Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, right, listens to speakers during the Party of European Socialists Council in Lisbon, Saturday, Dec. 2 2017. At center is Corina Cretu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union on Tuesday put 17 non-EU countries on a blacklist of those it deems guilty of unfairly offering tax avoidance schemes.

EU Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said after a meeting of the bloc's finance ministers that beyond the 17 nations, over 40 more were put on a "grey list" to be monitored until they are fully committed to reforms.

"Tax havens will not disappear from our radars and we will keep the pressure on," he said.

The EU said those blacklisted had refused to cooperate and change their way after almost one year of consultations.

They are: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, St. Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.

Panama's president, Juan Carlos Varela, objected to his country being on the list, saying it is making progress against tax evasion. Panama has been battered by document leaks, including the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, showing how the rich have stashed wealth in shell companies in Panama and other small nations.

The EU's penalties on the blacklisted countries still need to be confirmed.

In the meantime, the threat of being blacklisted and sanctioned has spurred many countries to cooperate with the EU, a sign that public shaming alone will have an impact, said EU legislator Tom Vandenkendelaere of the EPP Christian Democrats.

"It already had a positive impact. To avoid getting on the list, a great many nations have already shown to be cooperative," Vandenkendelaere said. "In the future, too, most countries will try to avoid being publicly shamed."

Higher-tax countries like France have pushed for the blacklist as well as a crackdown on tax havens in the EU as well. Lower-tax countries like Ireland and the Netherlands argue that will hurt Europe's competitiveness.

The Socialist S&D group said that the blacklist could have been much more inclusive, even including EU countries. Others, too, were asking why countries like Luxembourg, Malta and Britain — whose crown dependency Isle of Man featured prominently in the Paradise Papers — were not included.

"Tax havens inside the EU are missing as well. If we want to fight tax avoidance credibly on a global stage, we must also put our own house in order," said Socialist legislator Peter Simon said.