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Austria slightly shifts position on banking secrecy

Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger had hinted that Austria might be happy to exchange data on bank account holders with EU countries even is similar agreements have not been finalised with Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Austria and Luxembourg had come under criticism in December after they previously said they will block EU plans to combat tax fraud and evasion in Europe until agreements about banking secrecy between the European Union and tax havens Liechtenstein and Switzerland are worked out.

Following a meeting with Luxembourg counterpart on Tuesday, Spindelegger said that it was important for them that there are similar banking accords with neighbours like Switzerland and Liechtenstein but hinted that he could be flexible.

"There is no strict conditionality regarding the finished treaties," he said through a spokesperson. "It is important, however, that there are similar rules in all other countries promptly."

The news signals a slight shift from the position taken by previous Finance Minister Maria Fekter who had promised to 'fight like a lion' to protect Austria's banking secrecy.

Luxembourg also revealed last week that they would not block the EU accord on tax fraud in the long-term. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said at a news conference in Berlin: "We will not do a blockade for the sake of having a blockade".

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