EU at Odds Over Tax Haven Crackdown | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.03.2008
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EU at Odds Over Tax Haven Crackdown

The EU is in agreement that it must quickly take steps to close loopholes that allow tax evasion. But its member states disagree on how.

A sign points in the direction of Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Vienna's unwilling to loosen its bank secrecy laws if Vaduz won't do it as well

Berlin is spearheading efforts to cut off tax havens as investigations continue into large-scale tax evasion on the part of hundreds of wealthy Germans. But it found its quest blocked by Vienna at a meeting of EU finance minister in Brussels on Tuesday, March 4.

Germany wants to expand EU legislation to force all member states to share information about foreigners who have accrued income in interest on bank accounts.

"Bank secrecy is not on the table," Austrian Finance Minister Wilhelm Molterer stressed after the meeting.

Austrian Finance Minister Wilhelm Molterer said his country would veto the attempt to water down bank secrecy regulations unless "other European countries," followed suit. He was referring to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco, all of which profit from strict bank secrecy laws.

EU members Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg had opted out of the 2005 legislation which allows foreign bank account holders to remain anonymous.

Upset for Steinbrueck

A woman walks along a Pacific Ocean beach

The EU also wants Asian tax havens to be more transparent

Belgium and Luxembourg, on the hand, indicated they were open to cooperating.

"It can't be the task of European financial center's to enrich themselves at the cost of their neighbors," Luxembourg's finance Prime Minister Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Changing the law requires the approval of all 27 finance ministers.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck's efforts elsewhere may have been more fruitful. The finance minister charged the EU's executive, the European Commission, with reporting in May, rather than in the autumn as orignially planned, how the bloc can best improve the legislation and examining negotiations with Asian tax havens.

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