BERLIN May 4 Germany's finance minister sees no
chance of renegotiating a failed bilateral deal with Switzerland
that would have sought to sweep Swiss accounts clean of German
tax dodgers, even after the country's foreign minister renewed
his calls for a second try.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted as saying on
Saturday Switzerland would not be able to retroactively change
laws to lift tax secrecy, one of the reasons for Germany's
opposition to bloc the deal last year.
"As a state under the rule of law, Switzerland cannot
retroactively change laws or get rid of tax secrecy. That's the
question due to which red-green (opposition) let the agreement
fail in the Bundesrat and I don't see the position of the
opposition changing," Schaeuble said, according to Bild am
The German-Swiss deal, agreed last year but blocked by the
opposition in Germany's upper house, has become a hot topic of
debate again in Berlin with five months to federal elections
after comments by both countries' foreign ministers.
Both signalled on Wednesday they would be ready to revive
bilateral negotiations, a plea Germany's Foreign Minister Guido
Westerwelle renewed in an interview with Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
"We must launch a second attempt to see what leeway there
is," he was quoted as saying. "I would like to see a new start
succeeding with talks. The most recent developments globally and
in the European Union should be taken into account in this."
The SPD and the Greens who control Germany's upper house of
parliament last year scuppered the governments' deal, arguing it
was too lenient as it would have protected the anonymity of
German account holders while imposing a tax on their assets.
Merkel's government cannot afford to be seen as soft on tax
evasion, a topic the Social Democrats are perceived to be
A poll on Wednesday had the conservatives falling three
points to 39 percent after news that Bayern Munich chief Uli
Hoeness, who has links to the conservatives, had disclosed to
authorities that he had not paid his taxes on a Swiss account.
Schaeuble said a bilateral deal with Switzerland was now no
longer the way forward.
"The agreement would have been the only way (to deal with
the past). But that's over now," Schaeuble said, referring to
tax evasion taking place prior to the agreement.
"The goal of the federal government is a general rule for
all capital income with full exchange of information in all of
Europe," he added.
The EU's six biggest countries last month agreed to increase
their cooperation in fighting tax havens, attempting to pile
pressure on those countries that want to secure bank secrecy.
(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; editing by James Jukwey)