Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, has defended Swiss banking secrecy laws.This content was published on January 1, 2002 - 23:51
Speaking on Swiss Italian television on Tuesday, Prodi said only the Swiss can decide what to do with their banking secrecy. "The European Union does not want to make Switzerland change its laws," said the commissioner.
Prodi's comments come two weeks after the Italian finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, criticised Swiss banking secrecy laws.
The minister was speaking in particular about funds hidden by Italians in Switzerland. Banking secrecy has prevented the Italian tax officials from turning up some of the huge sums thought to have been stashed abroad by their country's citizens.
The Italian government is hoping to recover some of this money with the change to a single European currency. Under a recent law, Italian citizens can still repatriate money stashed abroad until the end of February without paying any penalties, but Tremonti has warned those who refuse to de so can expect to lose everything to the taxman if found out.
Tremonti had also said banking secrecy had to go in the interests of fighting terrorism. The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has already defended banking secrecy, denouncing what he called the Italian's strong-arm tactics.
While Prodi said the Swiss must decide alone, he did call for a more intense collaboration between the European Union and Switzerland in the years to come. The president of the European Commission would like to see more pan-continental laws.
"The events of September 11 show that in a globalised world, everybody has the same interests," he said. "No state can afford to have any grey areas."
swissinfo with agencies