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Tax Haven Row

ca/rm, AFP/ReutersMay 6, 2009

Luxembourg's parliament has passed a resolution condemning statements made by German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, in which he compared Luxembourg's banking transparency laws to those of Burkina Faso in Africa.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck
Steinbrueck has refused to apologize for his hard stance on alleged tax havensImage: AP

It's not the first time that Peer Steinbrueck has ruffled feathers on the tax haven issue, but Luxembourg thinks that – this time – he's gone too far.

Lawmakers unanimously backed the resolution on Wednesday, saying Steinbrueck's remarks hurt relations between the two neighbors.

On Tuesday, Steinbrueck had told reporters that he regretted the absences of Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and Luxembourg at a tax haven conference in Paris last October.

"I will obviously invite them to a follow-up conference in June in Berlin: Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Ouagadougou," he said.

The addition of the capital of Burkina Faso was apparently meant to be a joke – but Luxembourg's lawmakers haven't been laughing.

Wednesday's resolution says Steinbrueck's remarks "damage the exemplary nature of relations that have developed between the Federal Republic of Germany and Luxembourg since the end of World War II."

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told German news magazine Der Spiegel that Steinbrueck had showed an "arrogance that is difficult to surpass."

Image of the Swiss flag with 500 Euro bills superimposed over the top
Switzerland has also come under fire from SteinbrueckImage: bilderbox / AP / DW Montage

The resolution, which also condemns the "total lack of consideration" for Burkina Faso, is to be sent to the speaker of Germany's lower house of parliament.

Swiss "Indians"

Earlier this year, Steinbrueck compared the Swiss to Indians in America's Wild West.

One Swiss MP hit back, saying that the German finance minister was reminiscent 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 uproar back in Germany.

Along with France, Peer Steinbrueck has been pushing for a crackdown on countries that do not cooperate with foreign tax authorities.

Luxembourg recently pledged to adhere to standards drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, although the country has denied that its banking secrecy rules made it easier for foreigners to evade taxes.

Switzerland, Austria and Monaco have also agreed to follow the OECD's set of standards.