08.09.2011: Joint event of AGF and COFACE on VAT

Tischrunde mit Teilnehmern der Veranstaltung

The AGF hosted the regular meeting of the COFACE Working Group Consumer Protection, Services and Public Health Policies in Berlin. The two-day event started with a European Expert Discussion on the issue of reduced VAT for children’s products. Attendants were, among others, representatives of the EU Commission, the European Parliament and the German Bundestag.

The two-day event took place on 8 and 9 September 2011 at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin. At the first day, members of AGF as well as of COFACE discussed intensly the current VAT system in the EU and the prospects of a reduced rate on children’s products at a European Expert Meeting on VAT. The debates were about the aims of such a reduced rate, the appropriate definition of products for children, the maintaining of such a measure by business companies as well as about possible alternatives, e.g. VAT refunds or deductions from taxes.

Basically, there was a consensus among the participants that the reduction of VAT on children’s products is a concern which deserves support and that the topic should also be dealt with at European level. COFACE called on the European institutions to expand the list of products and services that qualify for reduced VAT rates, so that member states are able to reduce corresponding products.

Werner Blockmans from the European Commission spoke about the state of the EU consultation on the future of VAT and the further proceeding of the Comission.  Gerald Häfner, member of the European Parliament, reported afterwards the possibilities of the new European Citizens’ Initiative regarding a reduced VAT rate and which requirements have therefore to be fullfilled. Important experiences and current considerations regarding a reduced rate for children’s products were remarked by Dr. Izabella Ewa Cech from Poland and Jean Bernard Audureau from Spain.

At the second day, the regular meeting of COFACE Working Group took place. The focus lied on varying issues, all having an impact on families and in many cases even above and beyond on society at a whole. The most important topics that day were the debate about the supply of energy today and in the future, food labelling and the information about measures for a healthier diet in families as well as consumer rights in the field of finances and banking, the preliminary paper on Telemedicine and the priorities of COFACE in 2012.

The working group had invited Claudia Guske as a representative from the European Commission to speak about the energy topic. She talked about the legal responsibilities concerning energy policies and new european legislative developments in that field. Critical questions from the COFACE members followed concerning the current price structures, leading to high costs for electricity, fuel and other energy related products and services for many families, and the support of sustainable energies.

The debates and discussions on these two days were both for COFACE and for AGF very productive. AGF will integrate the results in its work, especially those concerning the Expert Discussion on reduced VAT will be used for the current initiative “7% for kids”, which has been started with the help of AGF in May this year.