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ECOFIN’s Cayman Islands decision shows criteria for EU tax-haven blacklist are broken


06 Oct 2020


Euro & Finance

Reacting to today's decision by EU finance and economic ministers to update the EU's tax-haven blacklist, Pedro Marques MEP, S&D spokesperson on tax matters, said:

"I was shocked to learn that EU ministers today struck the Cayman Islands off the EU's tax-haven blacklist. The Cayman Islands lead the race to the bottom by offering a zero tax rate, facilitating companies and the super rich to dodge their responsibilities for paying their fair share. Clearly, the EU criteria for black-listing tax havens do not work. Not only have some of the world's most harmful tax havens like Switzerland, Hong Kong or Jersey never made it onto the list, moreover, as the criteria do not include a minimum effective tax rate, notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands can get off the hook.

"In the newly set up Tax Matters Committee we will make it our first priority to propose a revision of the criteria for the EU's tax-haven blacklist. The Cayman Islands decision demonstrates that we must include sharper economic indicators to help identify countries as tax havens, such as a minimum effective tax rate.

"Currently, the procedure lacks transparency: the Code of Conduct Group, which is in charge of screening tax havens, works behind closed doors, and only very few documents are available for public scrutiny. This must change.

"To have a deterrent effect, we must come up with tough sanctions for tax havens.

"We also want the screening procedure extended to EU countries. Even with today's weak criteria, a number of EU countries would appear on the blacklist if they were not exempt from the process. Only if we keep our own house in order will Europe be a credible leader on tax justice.

"Our citizens are paying a heavy prize for every tax haven that is not shut down. Now more than ever, we must collect all the tax revenue due as it is urgently needed for stimulating the recovery and investing in schools and hospitals. It is time to finally turn the EU blacklist into a robust instrument for fighting tax avoidance."

Note to the editors:

Today, EU finance and economy ministers have published an official review of the EU list of non-co-operative jurisdictions.

In 2017, the EU published the first EU blacklist and ‘grey list’ of tax havens, officially known as the EU list of non-co-operative jurisdictions for tax purposes. Member states bring together these lists in the Code of Conduct group for business taxation, a secretive group of government experts, according to three criteria: transparency, fair taxation and commitment to the OECD anti-BEPS (base erosion and profit shifting) package. Countries that fail any of these three criteria go onto the blacklist (officially Annex I), unless they commit to implementing reforms, in which case they are put on  the ‘grey list’ (officially called Annex II).


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