Aurore Lalucq: “We must win a cultural battle for the taxing of very high incomes”

Aurore Lalucq is the MEP behind an European Citizens' Initiative that aims to properly tax the ultra-rich. Alternatives Economiques interviewed Lalucq to ask her how this idea came about and what stage the signature collection is at.

Published On: March 28th, 2024

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Public mobilisation can lead the European Commission to take up issues. For example, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, has been in operation since 2012. Under this procedure, anyone who manages to collect at least one million signatures (out of 400 million voters) in at least seven European countries in the space of a year can ask the Commission to respond to their citizens’ initiative.

Since then, 109 ECIs have been accepted by the Commission. 81 have come to nothing, either because they were withdrawn by the organisers or because they did not reach the one-million-signature mark. Leaving aside initiatives that are at the stages of preparation, collection or checking, only 10 ECIs have come to fruition to date. They mainly concern environmental or animal-welfare issues. So far, their outcomes have been somewhat meagre. The “Stop Glyphosate” ECI received a concrete response in the form of an extension of the right to use the pesticide. On the other hand, the Commission refused to accede to another ECI’s request to stop European funding for abortion in developing countries.

An initiative to tax the rich may fare better, assuming it gathers enough signatures. From the United States to the OECD, the principle of higher taxation of the very wealthy is gaining ground. In France, the proposal for a green wealth tax enjoys fairly broad political backing: supporters include Socialist Pierre Moscovici, conservative Dominique de Villepin, and mainstream economist Jean Pisani-Ferry. The ECI’s website will give some indication of whether the idea is sufficiently popular across Europe.

We asked three questions to Aurore Lalucq, the MEP behind this initiative for the creation of a European wealth tax.

How did the idea for a European wealth tax come about?

Aurore Lalucq: It’s the result of two parallel initiatives. In the European Parliament, I was the rapporteur for the text that introduced a minimum 15% tax on the profits of multinationals that are domiciled abroad. When the bill passed, I said to myself that, having put corporate taxation in order, we needed to do the same for individuals. I started working to build a coalition with MEPs, former members of the Commission, trade unions, NGOs, etc., to call for proper taxation of the very rich. This appeal was published in Le Monde* in March 2023.

It just so happened that, at the same time, the leader of Belgium’s Socialist Party, Paul Magnette, was also working on a project to fix European taxation. We got in touch and Paul had the excellent idea of launching a European Citizens’ Initiative on the subject.

To successfully propose an ECI, you need to find at least seven people in seven different European countries to support it. We split this task between us. We also wanted it to be more than just politicians and experts. We had to find millionaires, trade unions and NGOs, to show that the idea was beginning to win widespread support. We then consulted legal experts to make sure that our proposal had a solid legal basis so that it could be approved by the Commission.

Why opt for a European Citizens’ Initiative and not the European Parliament?

Aurore Lalucq: Because there is currently no majority in the European Parliament for the plan! So we had to take a step back and start by waging the cultural battle in favour of taxing capital, very high incomes and very high wealth. From this point of view, an ECI is a way for citizens to break into the European institutions. To all those who complain that Brussels is out of touch, this is a great way to get Europe back on track and to push forward its social agenda. We need to tax the very rich, and this is an opportunity to bring the subject into the political debate. I’m convinced that if we succeed, we’ll find ways of pushing the issue forward at the OECD, which brought in taxation of multinationals, as well as at the Commission, the Parliament and so on.

What’s the current state of the campaign?

Aurore Lalucq: To date, we have collected 147,100 signatures. To guarantee that a proposal is representative, there is a minimum threshold that must be passed in seven countries. At this stage, we’ve passed it in France. The next stage is Belgium. Italy is also very active. So we’re going to organise mobilisations country by country to get past the minimums, and then go on to collect a million signatures. We are relying on political parties, NGOs and trade unions to build coalitions in each country.

Once a million signatures have been obtained, the Commission is obliged to draft a proposal on the subject. It then has to take this proposal to the member states. At that point there may be recalcitrant countries, and everything will come down to the balance of power. Popular pressure has an important role to play here, which is why it is vital to collect as many signatures as possible.

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