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Austrian Banks Threatened With Exclusion From EIB over OECD Grey List

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has written to the Austrian finance ministry to advise them that Austrian Banks will no longer be allowed to manage EIB financings after March 31, 2010, unless Austria takes the necessary steps to be removed from the OECD 'Grey List' - the list of countries needing to take action to prove they will adhere to OECD standards on tax transparency and exchange of information.

In order to set this process in motion, the Austrian government need a two thirds majority vote in the national parliament, for legislation which will allow bank secrecy laws to be diluted; this means that some opposition voting support is needed. The various opposition parties still appear unmoved by such sanctions and it is thought that the two thirds majority is not yet achievable. If the government fails to win over the extra votes by Autumn, it could face further sanctions, since the G20 meeting scheduled for September has sanctions against 'grey list' countries on its agenda.

The EIB threat would have a serious effect on Austria's international banking business, since Austria is a market leader in Eastern Europe, where the EIB directs a high proportion of its financings; Austria manages about EUR1.2bn of such financings annually. It is understood that the Austrian representative on the EIB board, a finance ministry civil servant, abstained while all the other EU countries represented on the board voted in favour of the sanctions. The Austrian official had however succeeded in having the effective date moved forward from January 1.

In preparation for the successful conclusion of the necessary legislation, the Austrian government has negotiated and is ready to sign 3 of the 12 required tax information sharing accords to achieve 'whitelist' status; concrete discussions on these agreements are being held with 30 nations in all.

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