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Cameron tells euronews: 'The EU is not working properly and needs reform'


interview

Cameron tells euronews: 'The EU is not working properly and needs reform'

As Britain prepared to host the G8 Summit, euronews reporter Ali May spoke to the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Ali May; euronews: “The Syrian crisis is at a turning point. Aggressive tax evasion by big corporations seems to be endemic. Millions of people every day suffer from hunger. Meanwhile Britain hosts the G8 summit. What does David Cameron make of these issues? We are here to find out.”
“Hello Prime Minister. Is it naive to think the western powers can identify the moderate rebels in Syria and that military backing will not fall into the hands of extremists?”

David Cameron; British Prime Minister: “No, I think it is vital we do work with the moderate opposition in Syria, the national coalition that came together that supports a democratic Syria, that supports human rights, that wants to have a Syria that is for everyone, including the minorities, including Christians in Syria, that we work with them, we help them, that we train them, we advise them, because if we don’t do that there will only be extremist elements to the opposition – extremist elements I would like to see driven out of Syria altogether. So I think it is very important we work with the proper official opposition, otherwise we will only be left with extremists.”

euronews: “But of course Russia is very much opposed to arming the rebels. What will you tell President Putin when you shake his hand at G8?“ 

Cameron: “Well as I said to President Putin, we had very good discussions in Sochi in Russia recently. And although we have a different perspective on this, I think in the end we all want the same thing, which is a Syria that is at peace with its neighbours, that has a government that can represent its people, and we need a peace conference and a transition to bring that about. And I think it is important that everybody understands that President Assad can’t win this by military means. There has to be a transitional process.”

euronews: “One of your major priorities at this G8 is tax dodging, but arguably…”

Cameron: “My priority is cracking down on tax dodging, let’s get that one straight.”

euronews: “What’s important also is that most major tax havens are British territories.”

Cameron: “First of all, that is not true. That is simply not the case and if you look at what are called the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom they have now signed up to the exchange of tax information – to taking action to uncover the beneficial ownership of companies registered in those places – and I think it is quite wrong anyway to say that they have been the ones who are holding up progress. Here we are on euronews, for years in Europe there was no proper exchange of tax information. Countries like Austria and Luxembourg blocked it year, after year, after year. They have only stopped blocking it because I put tax and transparency at the top of the G8 agenda, that led to a European Council where Europe took action, where those countries removed their block and now proper tax cooperation will take place. So we should make sure we get our facts right before pointing any fingers.”

euronews: “It is very interesting because Britain has been losing billions in tax dodging, but the time is interesting, why are you putting so much emphasis on it now?”

Cameron: “Well, because I think it is the right agenda and not just for wealthy countries. I think most of all this is the right agenda for the developing world. Unlike many countries in the world, Britain has kept her promises about aid to the poorest countries in the world. We made promises, we kept our promises. Many others in Europe did not do that and I think that, therefore, gives us the permission to say now is the time to move on to a fresh agenda , which is about making sure companies pay their taxes, making sure companies are transparent about the payments they make to governments for minimal rights and the like. And this agenda, I think, will help the developing world because they suffer from tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, but it will also help the developed world, the West as well.”

euronews: “But how are you going to make sure those big multi-nationals, that you have been very clearly criticising recently, are going to pay their fair share of tax.”

Cameron: “Well what we are going to do is two things, basically. The first is making sure there is an effective exchange of information between tax authorities. That is absolutely vital. The second thing is making sure all companies are taking action to have, in our case, a register of beneficial ownership so you can see who owns every company. Because, if you do that, you have the exchange of information and you can see who owns what. Then you are much more likely to get companies to pay their taxes in a way that is fair and right. So those two steps – we will be making further steps at the G8 I believe, on Monday or Tuesday next week – those two steps will make a big difference.”

euronews: “In the summit when you shake hands with François Holland and Angela Merkel, and you have advocated closer ties within the G8, but you are aware that Europe has been watching with worry at all this anti-EU rhetoric in Britain. So how do you reconcile these? And what do you tell your European colleagues when the cameras are off?”

Cameron: “What I say to my European colleagues is what I say to the British people as well, which is: we want to have good cooperation in Europe; we want to have good relations in Europe; but we need reform of the European Union. To somehow pretend that anti-European rhetoric only exists in Britain is a complete fiction. Go and listen to people on the streets of Madrid, or on the streets of Paris, or on the streets of Athens and find out what they think about the European Union right now, they are not satisfied with it. The European Union is not working properly right now. It needs reform, it needs to be more open, it needs to be more flexible. We need to be more competitive, we need to have fewer instructions and bossiness from Brussels and more cooperation between nation states. This is not just a British view, this is a view you find very widely around Europe, that people are not satisfied with the way the European Union works. My plan is to make reforms in the European Union and then put to the British people a referendum: whether they want to stay in this reformed European Union or leave the European Union. I believe a reformed European Union will be in Britain’s interest and I have made that case very clearly. Now I say that to Angela Merkel and François Hollande, whether the cameras are on or the cameras are off. I say the same thing in private as I say in public, and what is interesting is that actually there are many in Europe who recognise it is time for a debate, it is time for change. We need to make sure Europe works properly.”

euronews: “You touched on aid and the population of the G8 countries is around 900 million. That is pretty much the same number of people who sleep hungry every night in the world. Is there any strong will to tackle this scandal?”

Cameron: “Yes, I believe there is, as I said. I think if you go back to Gleneagles in 2005, when the world made lots of promises about aid, some countries like Britain have kept their promises on aid. We said we would reach 0.7 percent of our Gross National Product going in aid every year. This year in 2013, on time, we have met that promise. We have made a promise to the poorest in the world and we have kept it. And as a result there are millions of children in school, there are millions of children getting vaccinated against diseases, there is widespread availability of anti-retro viral drugs, things that would not have happened if Britain had not kept her promises. So I think there is across Britain, a very generous people that give money every year to these charities. So I think there is an appetite to deal with this, there is also – and we should be frank about this – a cynicism and a worry about does the aid go to the right people, is it enough? Will it work? And the answer is on its own. It is not enough and that is why we need this agenda, companies need to pay their taxes properly, we need more transparency about government contracts and what happens to the money. We need to crackdown on corruption and, as I argued at the United Nations in this new high level panel report, we need to make sure we prioritise good government, the rule of law, absence of corruption, absence of conflict, the presence of property rights. We need to advocate those things instead of just giving aid.”

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