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Swiss, German ministers to meet

BERLIN – The Swiss and German foreign ministers will meet in Berlin in April, the German government said Tuesday, amid an escalating dispute over Switzerland’s banking secrecy traditions.

Micheline Calmy-Rey will hold talks with her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier next Wednesday "in a meeting that was arranged some time ago," a German foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.

"Banking secrecy will of course be one of the issues up for discussion but the visit is not just about discussing that," he said.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck upset some Swiss with his calls for Germany’s Alpine neighbour to help international efforts to reduce tax evasion.

A Wild West analogy interpreted in Switzerland as comparing the Swiss to "Indians" led to the German ambassador in Bern being summoned and to Steinbrueck being labelled "the hateful German" in a tabloid headline.

One Swiss MP said in parliament that Steinbrueck "reminds me of the old generation of Germans, who 60 years ago went through the streets with leather coats, boots and armbands."

The Swiss defence minister reportedly traded his official German-made Mercedes limousine for a French car.

Steinbrueck is a member of the same party as Steinmeier, the centre-left Social Democrats. The latter is the party’s candidate to challenge Angela Merkel for the chancellorship in elections in September.

AFP / Expatica