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Swiss People's Party Takes Tougher Stance On Banking Confidentiality

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

04 December 2003


On Tuesday a proposal put forward by the eurosceptic Swiss People's Party (SVP) to incorporate the concept of banking secrecy into the country's constitution was approved by majority in the Swiss House of Representatives. Similar proposals put forward by four Swiss cantons were accepted by the Senate on Wednesday.

Separate parliamentary commissions will now examine the different proposals, but any final decision on whether to enshrine banking secrecy in the constitution would require a national referendum.

The SVP, which became the largest party in the House after winning 27% of the votes in recent elections, has timed its move so as to cause the greatest possible embarrassment to the government as it attempts to negotiate a second set of 'bilateral accords' with the EU.

Switzerland's attachment to banking secrecy was severely tested during the development of the EU's Savings Tax Directive, which will impose information sharing on most EU member states in respect of bank account deposit interest payments. Switzerland, along with a few EU countries, succeeded in adopting a withholding tax instead.

Experts in Switzerland say that this week's votes don't have much practical significance, although they could annoy Brussels and slow down the bilaterals process. The Swiss Bankers Association welcomed the move.


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