A group of EU member states agreed Thursday to take a final stab at hashing out a controversial tax on financial transactions, after failing to meet a self-imposed June deadline to resolve their differences.
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain have been negotiating the tax for nearly three years. They had at one point planned to start implementing the levy this year.
"There must be a final decision in September," said Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling, who has been leading the negotiations. "If we don't have a solution in September, then we probably won't get one," he added.
Between now and then, two working groups are now due to hash out details of the planned levy over.
"Very little is missing for a general agreement," Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said in Luxembourg, where the ministers held talks ahead of a meeting with all their eurozone counterparts.
Among other things, the working groups will seek to resolve concerns that Belgium and Slovakia have raised about the levy, Schelling said. In Slovenia, meanwhile, parliament must weigh in on whether to proceed with the project.
A minimum of nine member states must be on board for the levy to take effect in their countries.
The idea of introducing a financial transaction tax in the EU has long been controversial and could not find support among the bloc's 28 member states.
Supporters have argued that it will help make the financial sector - which many see as the source of recent economic crises - act more responsibly. But critics have said it could increase the cost of capital and drive investment away from Europe.
Britain has been among the staunchest opponents of the tax, commonly known as the FTT. London has feared that the tax will hurt its financial hub.
The 10 countries are using a go-it-alone EU approach known as enhanced cooperation.