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Swiss ready to discuss banking secrecy with European Union

The EU is likely to make concessions on banking secrecy a condition of further talks


Switzerland has said it is ready to begin a new round of bilateral talks with the European Union on the issues of banking secrecy and tax evasion.

The announcement comes following a meeting between Swiss officials and members of the European Commission in Brussels, on Friday.

While the Swiss government has expressed its willingness to discuss banking secrecy, it made it clear that, in exchange, the EU must be ready to collaborate on judicial, police and asylum matters.

However, in a communiqué on Friday, the EU insisted that improved cooperation on fighting banking secrecy "should not be influenced by any other issues".

In the past, Switzerland has consistently said that it would not compromise on banking secrecy.

Analysts say Europe loses billions of euros in taxes every year in transactions allegedly carried out in Switzerland.

The two sides said they may begin a new round of bilateral talks as early as February.

Earlier, the Swiss secretary of state for foreign affairs, Franz von Däniken, said that issues such as fraud and taxation need to be addressed, but insisted that Bern was not interested in striking deals of any sort.

He added that as far as the Swiss were concerned, the EU should already have drawn up a common legal base regarding savings taxation in order to ease procedures for its partners.

Switzerland's Private Bankers on Thursday spoke out against any compromise on taxation and banking secrecy. They said it would be a "catastrophe" if any hasty concessions were made to the EU in its fight against tax evasion.

They added that it is out of the question for Switzerland to introduce a general and automatic exchange of information, as is foreseen in the EU's agreement on taxation of income from savings.

Aside from judicial and security issues, Switzerland also plans to hold talks with the EU on eight other dossiers, for which declarations of intent have already been drawn up.

They cover a range of subjects from farm products to retired EU functionaries living in Switzerland.

Last May, Swiss voters approved a package of seven bilateral accords with the EU, governing issues from transport to the free movement of people.

swissinfo with agencies


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