EU: No unanimous consensus in today's ECO FIN Council meeting to approve the Pillar 2 Directive

Last-minute objections from Hungary means Pillar 2 Directive cannot yet be adopted

In brief

In a nail-biter today, the EU Council of Finance Ministers (ECO FIN) did not unanimously approve the directive on global minimum taxation ("Pillar 2 Directive"), due to the objections raised by Hungary. The Pillar 2 Directive would have implemented the OECD IF's GloBE model rules in the EU, requiring EU member states to implement a minimum tax on corporations of at least 15%. The Pillar 2 Directive is generally consistent with the OECD Inclusive Framework GloBE model rules.

Given the rejection by Hungary, the Pillar 2 Directive was therefore again not adopted today. It is expected that the Pillar 2 Directive will be back on the agenda for a subsequent ECO FIN Council meeting in July, under the Czech presidency.


In depth

The process towards implementation of the Pillar 2 Directive is definitely not straight-forward. In order to adopt the said Directive unanimous approval of EU member states is required. When the Pillar 2 Directive proposal was initially tabled in March, four member states (i.e. Estonia, Malta, Poland, Sweden) raised their objections and were reluctant to approve the proposal. After careful negotiations with the French presidency (on behalf of the EU Commission), the objections from Estonia, Malta, and Sweden were lifted and these member states approved the Pillar 2 Directive during the subsequent ECO FIN meeting.

Until recently, Poland was the only EU member state withholding approval for the Pillar 2 Directive. Earlier this month, a compromise was reached between Poland and the other member states and it seemed highly likely that the Pillar 2 Directive would be unanimously approved during today's ECO FIN Council meeting. However, surprisingly, after approving the Pillar 2 Directive at two previous ECO FIN Council meetings, Hungary started raising concerns earlier this week. Last Wednesday Hungarian government officials requested France to remove the Pillar 2 Directive from the agenda of today's ECO FIN meeting. France refused to do, possibly given international pressure. 

Today, June 17, Hungary formally objected and therefore the ECO FIN Council could not unanimously approve the Pillar 2 Directive. In its remarks at the meeting, Hungary noted that Europe is currently facing major challenges due to the ongoing war in the region and current economic crisis (e.g. increasing interest rates and inflation). Adopting the GloBE rules at this current stage would possibly damage the economy in their view, Moreover, Hungary noted that there is still ongoing technical work required on Pillar 2. Hungary's concern is therefore that taxpayers cannot yet fully prepare for the consequences of the complex Pillar 2 Directive. Hungary ended its statement by noting that the EU is in fact not late with implementation, as neither the US or Asian jurisdictions have started implementation. 

The French presidency thanked Poland for its constructive approach but was clearly not amused by Hungary and todays outcome. However, they remain optimistic and believe that the objective of the adoption of the Pillar 2 Directive is still attainable. Interestingly comments were also made about how important it is for the EU to move to qualified majority voting on tax matters urgently. 

With today's decision, the Pillar 2 Directive will likely be a topic on the agenda for a next ECO FIN Council meeting on 12 July 2022.

Recommended actions

Irrespective of the adoption of the Pillar 2 Directive, jurisdictions outside the EU are free to move ahead with implementing the OECD IF GloBE model rules. For example, the UK already published a draft bill to implement the GloBE model rules. We expect that several jurisdictions will consider following the UK's example. In case the Pillar 2 Directive fails to get unanimous consent, EU legal constraints may stop individual member states following the UK's example. Moreover, the aim of the EU is to implement consistent GloBE model rules within the EU, and any effort at individual implementation across the EU member states of the GloBE rules may harm such consistency. If it continues to prove impossible to reach unanimity on the Pillar 2 Directive, a group of at least 9 member states in favor of the directive may consider implementing the Pillar 2 Directive under he enhanced cooperation procedure of article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. We will continue to closely monitor the developments on the Pillar 2 Directive as they occur.

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