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Luxembourg PM hits out at minister's 'Wild West' remark

LUXEMBOURG'S prime minister hit out at the tone of a campaign against tax evasion by Germany's finance minister and his party leader, according to an interview published yesterday, the latest volley in a weeks-long spat.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, long known for his combative style, said on Tuesday that he doesn't need to apologize to neighboring countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein for accusing them of aiding tax evasion.

In March, he said other countries should use "the whip" on the Swiss to combat tax evasion and bank secrecy.

The leader of his center-left Social Democrats, Franz Muentefering, remarked that "in the old times one would have sent in troops" to combat tax havens.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker took exception to that remark in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel.

"We don't find that funny," he was quoted as saying.

"We suffered under German occupation. Thank God we no longer resolve our problems with soldiers."

Juncker added that "it isn't funny when German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck ... reaches for Wild West imagery," Der Spiegel reported. "We don't talk that way about the Germans. And the Germans have no right to talk that way about Luxembourgers."

Swanky arrogance

Steinbrueck's style was attacked by another party in Germany's left-right "grand coalition" over the weekend as the country prepares for European Parliament elections in June and national elections in September.

"We condemn the finance minister's swanky arrogance," Horst Seehofer, the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union, said on Saturday. "These are our friends in the European Union."

Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have promised to change tax rules and cooperate more with other nations to crack down on tax fraud.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded a conciliatory note last week, welcoming the promises.


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