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EU ministers spar over purge on tax evasion

European finance ministers haggled with Austria Tuesday over bank data-sharing, as they seek to recover money from tax evasion that could help job creation and growth at a Brussels summit next week.
 
Vienna was seeking guarantees before it would drop resistance to the automatic sharing of bank records amid squabbling over the need for treaty changes to fix a seemingly stalled banking union sold as the final fix for the debt crisis.
 
‘I think we may be able to unblock things today,’ said Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter on going into the discussions.

She spoke of a mandate for negotiations with key neighbours like Switzerland as a big start potentially. ‘We want to go as far as possible in the automatic exchange of information,’ said French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.
 
Britain’s George Osborne added: ‘Let’s get that agreed and let’s show that European countries have the will to collect the taxes that are due.’  The ministers had plenty more to chew over, given ticking clocks on negotiations over legislation making up the eventual banking union or the European Union’s shrinking budget and rising unpaid bills, following inconclusive talks convened by EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Monday.
 
Van Rompuy was to attend the ministerial breakfast, in what one diplomat underlined was a demonstration of national leaders’ collective will. The focus of the talks, later to open up to the public, was Fekter, after she recently likened a long-stalled drive for automatic cross-border sharing of savings records by EU heavyweights to government ‘snooping.’  Her Chancellor Werner Faymann instead emphasised a call for international depositors to be subjected to the new rules... but not Austrian citizens.
 
Lower-level officials slaving away on the complex impact of tax changes on trillions in deposits, investments and ill-gotten gains, are candid about the determination from their political masters to be able to say they are ensuring tax fairness at a time of stubborn EU recession. The long-serving prime minister of Luxembourg has proved the other main obstacle to such transparency covering savers agreed by the rest of the EU fully five years ago, but repeatedly filibustered since.
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