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Austria gives green light for EU banking secrecy accord

Austria after holding off on signing an EU agreement to curb tax evasion has agreed to drop their opposition to the plan, signalling a step forward in the EU fight against bank secrecy.

Along with Luxembourg, Austria had since 2008 said they were holding back support for such an agreement until similar negotiations over bank secrecy with Switzerland, a non-EU country, had also been worked out.

However today both countries gave the go ahead regardless of the Switzerland deal-breaker with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel saying at a briefing that it has the green light.

"We confirmed today that this is the course we want to follow," he said.

The two countries have in the past come under fire for their opposition to the accord but hints that they could relax their position were made by Austrian Finance Minister Michel Spindelegger earlier this year when said 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.

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

The accord, the idea for which came in the wake of the financial crisis, is seen as essential by those in the European Union to deal with bank secrecy on the continent.

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