A top European Union (EU) diplomat is assuring Barbados and the rest of the region that the 28-member grouping is listening to their concerns about blacklisting.
However, while European External Action Service Head of Division for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean Aldo Dell’Ariccia said the EU would do all it could to help keep countries off any such lists, he offered no guarantees that it would no longer place any more such embargoes on regional states.
In fact, Dell’Ariccia would only assure journalists on a media familiarization tour of the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium that the political and economic union would ensure “maximum possible clarity so countries are not blamed while on the other hand they are doing all in order to be transparent and respect the norms” of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), even as he said his organization would not intervene directly on such matters.
The EU itself has been guilty of placing Barbados and other regional states on blacklists of tax havens, much to the dismay and frustration of Caribbean leaders.
On one such occasion, in mid 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s frustration was palpable when he addressed the 8th plenary of the OECD’s Global Forum in Paris, France.
“The recent publishing of a list by the European Union deeming 30 countries, including Barbados and others in the region as ‘non-cooperative’ and ‘tax havens’, once again highlights the concerns of the region regarding blacklisting by international organizations,” Stuart said at the time.
“This type of action can have a devastating impact on the reputation of our countries. It increases our risk profiles and affects our ability to retain or attract new investment and also has the potential to jeopardize the ease with which investors can access funding.
“I should like to register our deep disappointment at the conduct of those in the European Union with whom we have several fora for dialogue, in this matter,” he added then.
In April of this year the American state of Illinois blacklisted Barbados as a tax haven, and shortly thereafter, the US state department issued its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Volume II, in which it blacklisted Barbados and other Caribbean jurisdictions as major money laundering centres.
Last December Minister of International Business Donville Inniss had angrily dismissed as “wicked”, “mischievous” and “grossly misleading”, the categorization of Barbados by the UK-based aid and development charity Oxfam as one of the world’s 15 worst tax havens.
Both Government and the international business sector here have repeatedly complained that the frequent blacklisting was hurting the country’s reputation, a conclusion share by Dell’Ariccia.
He said the EU would hold talks with the various governments in an attempt to ensure a better understanding of the tax policies in the various countries “and make sure these policies do not affect the situation of transparency in the field of taxation”.
The expectation is no Caribbean country would be on any OECD cnon-compliant list when the process is completed by the end of this year, he said.