A resolution aimed at combating tax evasion was passed by an overwhelming majority of European parliamentarians on Friday, although four out of five of the Swiss representatives voted against.
The resolution was presented to the parliamentary assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, which brings together 47 European states, by Dirk Van der Maelen, a social democratic member of the Belgian parliament.
It was passed by 51 votes to 11, with one abstention. Representatives of Cyprus, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Monaco also voted against.
Switzerland is not mentioned by name in the text of the resolution, but it is placed at the top of the financial secrecy index quoted in the accompanying report. The index was drawn up by the non-governmental Tax Justice Network.
The resolution demands a series of steps to end what it calls “massive tax avoidance, evasion and fraud” facilitated by secrecy jurisdictions, tax havens and offshore financial centres.
It describes the fight against tax havens as a “moral duty”, since they “drain public finances and cause serious harm to the interests of other countries”.
Van der Maelen told the Swiss News Agency that he saw the resolution – which is not binding – mainly as an encouragement to Swiss members of parliament to become more active in the fight against tax evasion.
The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe is not a body of the European Union. Its members are drawn from the national parliaments of each country.
I have to say that all they're doing is drawing attention to the success of our work, the problems that their own conduct creates and the need for reform, and as a result I'm delighted.
I'd also like to thank all who voted for the resolution. It was notable that it was only tax havens - and, quite extraordinarily, some German members - who voted with the Swiss. The expected Austrian and UK support did not materialise.
And I especially applaud the Swiss representative who voted for the motion. That's brave!