Germany, Switzerland vow to bury tax haven hatchet

2nd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland and Luxembourg among several other countries have recently said they will change their banking laws and step up international cooperation on tax issues to avoid being placed on the dreaded G20 blacklist.

Berlin -- Germany and Switzerland vowed Wednesday to put an ugly spat over tax havens behind them on the eve of the Group of 20 summit which is set to draw up a blacklist of countries allowing shoddy tax practices.

"We want to put the irritations of the past behind us," said Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin after a meeting with his Swiss counterpart, Micheline Calmy-Rey.

"We remain neighbours and partners," Calmy-Rey said for her part, adding she had informed Steinmeier of Switzerland's decision to ease its bank secrecy laws to avoid the G20 blacklist.

"We are serious. When we say we are going to do something, we do it ... we are not a tax haven," she added.

Switzerland and Luxembourg among several other countries have recently said they will change their banking laws and step up international cooperation on tax issues to avoid being placed on the dreaded G20 blacklist.

Earlier Wednesday, the United States and Gibraltar said they had signed a tax information exchange accord, the first of its kind for the tiny British territory which has emerged as a major offshore finance centre at Spain's southern tip.

The tax haven issue threatened to become a major diplomatic standoff between Germany and Switzerland following very strident criticism of Switzerland's cherished banking secrecy laws from German officials.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck in particular ruffled feathers when he used a Wild West analogy interpreted in Switzerland as likening them to "Indians."

This led to one Swiss MP saying that Steinbrueck "reminds me of the old generation of Germans, who 60 years ago went through the streets with leather coats, boots and armbands," a Nazi analogy that caused outrage in Germany.

"After several weeks of arguing, we must now get back to normal neighbourly relations," Steinmeier said on Wednesday.

AFP/Expatica

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