German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has told political opponents of a tax deal with Switzerland to avoid becoming snooty.
“I’m happy Switzerland has gone so far despite its legal situation and its traditions,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Saturday.
“There is really no cause for snootiness on the German side. The Swiss have shifted on the tax issue to a previously unimaginable extent.”
On Thursday, Switzerland and Germany agreed on a revamped tax agreement amid tension between the two neighbours over fiscal evasion and banking secrecy.
Germany hopes the accord will generate billion of euros in tax revenues, while the Swiss government praised it as a model for agreements with other countries.
Schäuble described the modified deal – which is still to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries – as fair. However, Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democratic Party, reiterated the centre-left opposition would continue to block ratification of the agreement in Germany’s Upper House of parliament.
The Social Democrats, Greens and the Left Party complain that the proposed changes don’t go far enough and give tax cheats time to hide their money elsewhere.
Schäuble brought up former German Chancellor and Social Democrat hero Willy Brandt. “If Willy Brandt were still alive, he’d say this is exactly how we should act in Europe. Brandt always appealed in Europe for good neighbours, and what some Social Democrat politicians are currently doing is the opposite of that.”
He said the Social Democrats should stop behaving as though they held a monopoly over democracy.
“Switzerland is an ultra-democratic country,” he said. “It agreed to far-reaching steps that can’t have been easy when you consider the significance of banking secrecy in Switzerland.”