The End of Austria’s Banking Secrecy?
According to a new story in Austria’s Die Presse, Austrian EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn expects his country to back down under pressure. Austrian bank account holders are not affected in any case, says Hahn.
EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn (ÖVP) expects a change of course in Austria in the dispute over the lifting of banking secrecy for foreign savers. “Austria will have to move. I have no doubt that Austria is moving on the issue,” Hahn said Tuesday in the Ö1 Morning Journal. Hahn advised the Federal Government to push forward in talks with its EU partners and recommended that the rules for banks be standardized across Europe, and stressed that a unified front was crucial for the banking industry in Austria.
Banking secrecy was “perhaps an Austrian Holy Cow”, conceded Hahn. According to him, the current debate is not really about banking secrecy but about the automatic exchange of banking information between the EU member states, “when there are irregularities.” While an automatic data exchange exists between the remaining EU states, such measure would require a court order in Austria.
“It’s All About Foreigners”
Hahn stressed that the Austrian account holder “is not affected by the whole discussion. It’s all about foreigners who have an account in Austria.” Hahn contradicted a statement by Sparkassen-General Chief, Michael Ikrath (ÖVP), who had rejected the concept of banking secrecy limited to Austrian citizens only as unconstitutional. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has in recent decades regularly lifted rules requiring that EU countries stop discriminating against citizens of other Member States.