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Faymann demands progress on Swiss bank secrecy

Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPOe) has demanded that Europe moves forward on negotiations with Switzerland over its secret banking laws, suggesting that Austria would be more open to  exchange data on cross-border bank account holders if it did.

Faymann's statement comes weeks after Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger (OeVP) had hinted that Austria might be happy to exchange data with EU countries even if similar agreements have not been finalised with Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Austria and Luxembourg had come under fire late last year after they said they will block EU plans to combat tax fraud and evasion in Europe unless Swiss bank secrecy talks could be worked out.

Following a meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Chancellor Faymanna appeared to reaffirm to reporters on Wednesday that he wants to take a harder line although he was committed to fighting tax fraud.

"But we do not want this to be unilateral," he said. "We demand that there is a progress in the negotiations, even with so-called third countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra and Monaco."

The European Commission is expected to report on progress at a European summit in March.

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