Ireland says EU demand that Apple pay it 13 billion euros in back taxes unjustified

A 3D printed Apple logo is seen in front of a displayed Irish flag in this illustration taken September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's finance minister said the European Commission's demand that Dublin collect up to 13 billion euros ($13.8 bln) in back taxes from Apple AAPL.O was unjustified, in an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) newspaper.

The European Commission ordered Apple to repay taxes to Ireland after ruling last year that the U.S. technology company paid so little tax on its Ireland-based operations that it amounted to state aid.

In the interview, extracts from which the FAZ published on Wednesday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the tax rules from which Apple benefited had been available to all and were not tailored for the U.S. technology giant. They did not violate European or Irish law, he added.

The Irish government has said it will collect the money pending an appeal of the ruling by Apple, but Donohoe said it was not Dublin’s job and the request was not justified.

“We are not the global tax collector for everybody else,” FAZ quoted him as saying.

The money is currently being deposited in escrow.

Donohoe also distanced himself from French and German proposals that the EU do more to prevent Chinese investors from buying strategically important European companies, saying this would endanger Europe’s reputation for openness.

“We must be very careful not to endanger our reputation as advocates for free trade,” he said.

He also appeared lukewarm on proposals by French President Emmanuel Macron for a euro zone budget and finance minister, saying the bloc’s focus for the next two years should be further developing its banking union.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt, Editing by Michelle Martin and Susan Fenton