The twist revolves around import tariffs for EU member states that import solar panels from outside the EU. The EU instituted these to prevent the dumping of cheaply produced solar panels from China. The scope of the charges was later extended to Malaysia and Taiwan.
According to the Commission, in the period between 30 May 2015 and 1 March 2017, the Netherlands did not pay any import duties on solar panels where it should have been. This involves an estimated amount of 659 million euros, Minister Wopke Hoekstra (Finance, CDA) wrote to the Lower House.
Malaysia or Taiwan
According to him, the Netherlands does not have to pay for this at all, because the solar panels were shipped from Mexico, India or Vietnam. It is true that it contains parts from Malaysia or Taiwan, but they have still been assembled in the other countries, according to the cabinet. The Commission does not agree with this, the Netherlands has made an ‘error of interpretation’.
The cabinet and the Commission will now negotiate who is right, but Hoekstra will now transfer the amount of unpaid import duties anyway.
Member States that delay paying taxes to the EU have to pay substantial interest. For the Netherlands, this has now risen to 300 million euros, so Hoekstra is already making the money for this year.
The case has been going on for some time, but until now has been kept secret by Hoekstra to come out with the European Commission. Now that he has transferred the money, the need no longer applies.
Another reason to transfer the money anyway is that the Netherlands can now of itself initiate a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice if the ‘constructive dialogue’ with the Commission does not produce anything.
Lawsuit at EU Court
Otherwise, the Netherlands would have had to wait until the EU had started a so-called infringement procedure. Such a procedure is intended to tackle EU member states that violate EU rules and follows a number of steps, including eventually a lawsuit at the EU Court.
Hoekstra emphasizes that he cannot guarantee that he will win the case if the Court considers it. The cabinet does think it has a ‘legally pleadable position’.