Same rules, same standards
“Europe and the financial industry especially are undergoing restructuring movements. But we should not be afraid of change, because this is happening within a stable environment”. These are the words of Luxembourg’s Finance Minister Luc Frieden in Stockholm, during LFF’s financial mission to Scandinavia.
At the beginning of his speech in front of a room packed with finance professionals and journalists, Finance Minister Luc Frieden underlined the importance of Swedish finance players in Luxembourg, with eight Swedish banks and many investment fund companies and promoters present in the Grand Duchy. He added that Luxembourg’s goal is to offer something to the international financial community.
“I am pleased to say that we are triple A country, and I am committed to keep that rating. At the same time we need innovation, and stability does not need to exclude innovation and change. We have to use opportunities from a changing world. We will also encourage measures to develop investors’ protection. Every change brings new opportunities”.
Minister Frieden noted that we should not be afraid of change “if we want to strive for excellence”, as he puts it. This also implies clear political priorities. “It is often more popular to do bank bashing and speak negatively about finance. Though it is sometimes justified, but for the most part it is not”. Because the Luxembourg government pursues a proactive strategy, it will continue to support the finance industry, Minister Frieden promised, and at the same time stressed with vigour that the single European market must remain important, though some of the EU member states want to use the financial crisis to reinstate protectionist measures.
Asked by Swedish journalists about the EU summit in Brussels on tax matters, Minister Frieden insisted that Luxembourg believes in coordinated action against tax evasion and tax fraud and reminded everyone that banking secrecy was not invented to enable tax fraud. “That is why we announced that we would introduce an automatic exchange of information between tax authorities to make sure that we have the best cooperation for more transparency. At the same time, we insist on a level playing field for everyone”.
In other words: all G20 countries and all financial centres in and outside Europe comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, the USA and Switzerland have to adopt the same rules and standards. Europe’s goal cannot be to deploy a strategy of destroying jobs in Europe and relocate them to other countries.
All in all, Minister Luc Frieden and the Luxembourg government are in favour of fair competition among financial centres and applying the same standards, because efficiency only works well if the same rules are applied everywhere equally. The Minister closed by underscoring that this does not mean that everything has to be harmonised: there should be room left for nuances. CW