PARIS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - A financial transactions tax agreed by 11 euro zone states could be launched as soon as next year, the EU commissioner in charge of financial regulation said on Friday.
Nine other euro zone states joined France and Germany -- which have strongly pushed the measure -- in approving the tax at a European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels this week, despite vocal opposition from Britain and Sweden.
Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter said a model for how the tax would work would be presented by year-end and it was realistic to expect it to be implemented by 2014.
However, Commissioner Michel Barnier said that, once the legislation was prepared by the commission, it could take only a matter of months for the council of ministers and EU parliament to approve it.
“If there is the political will, the courage and the determination to do it, this tax could start in 2013,” Barnier told a news conference in Toulouse.
Commonly known as a “Tobin tax” after Nobel-prize winning U.S. economist James Tobin proposed one in 1972 as a way of reducing financial market volatility, it has become a political symbol of a widespread desire to make banks, hedge funds and high-frequency traders pay towards a wrenching debt clean-up.
The deal raised the prospect of a pioneer group of European states for the first time launching a joint tax without the unanimous backing of the 27-nation bloc, a move that may fragment the Union’s single market for financial services.
After heavy diplomatic pressure from Berlin, Spain and Italy agreed to support the measure, as well as Slovakia and Estonia. Belgium, Portugal, Austria, Greece and Slovenia also backed it.
Barnier dismissed warnings from some in the financial sector that the tax could drive business away from Europe.
“Europe is a huge single market of 500 million consumers, with a high purchasing power compared to the rest of the world, and 22 million companies. The financial sector is still going to be interested in working here,” he said.
Some of the revenues could be used directly to finance the EU budget, as well as environmental and developmental issues, he said.
The European Commission has said a tax on stocks, bonds and derivatives trades could raise up to 57 billion euros ($74 billion) a year if applied across all EU countries.