European Union lawmakers are investigating a proposed tax on e-mails and mobile phone text messages as a way to fund the 25-member bloc in the future.
A European Parliament working group is reviewing the idea, tabled by Alain Lamassoure, a prominent French MEP and member of the center-right European People's Party, the assembly's largest group.
Lamassoure, a member of Jacques Chirac's UMP party, is proposing to add a tax of about 1.5 cents on text or SMS messages and a 0.00001 cent levy on every e-mail sent.
"This is peanuts, but given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income," he said.
Currently the EU budget is funded through a combination of import duties, value added tax revenues and direct contributions from member states--the so-called "Gross National Income resource," which is calculated according to wealth.
However, following a yearlong battle over the current seven-year budget, agreed on last December, it was decided that the way in which the EU is funded should be changed, with new proposals expected by 2008/2009.
A single "EU tax" has found support among many of the 25 EU governments, MEP's and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. Other ideas include a tax on airline tickets and an extra levy on oil companies.
In Italy, the concept of a tax on texting was floated in the past, as a way to help offset the country's huge deficit, though it was flatly rejected by the outgoing government.
But Lamassoure argues that with billions of e-mails and texts sent around the world, it's a novel and simple way to raise funds from new technology.
"Exchanges between countries have ballooned, so everyone would understand that the money to finance the EU should come from the benefits engendered by the EU," he said.