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German minister tries to calm Swiss tax row

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble moved on Tuesday to cool a simmering row with Switzerland over a stalled tax deal, saying the country did not deserve to be treated like a "banana republic".

German minister tries to calm Swiss tax row

A long-standing dispute between the neighbours flared last week when Germany announced that a double-taxation deal could not pass its parliament in its current form.

Then at the weekend it emerged that Switzerland, whose secretive banking policies have long been a thorn in the side of German tax authorities, had issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors.

They are under investigation over the purchase of a stolen CD naming German customers of Credit Suisse bank who had allegedly dodged taxes.

The move sparked outrage in Germany but also drew support from some quarters. Schäuble on Tuesday attempted to calm the waters.

“It makes no sense for us in politics to start attacking each other over Switzerland as if it weren’t a state based on the rule of law or as if it were some banana republic,” he told SWR2 public radio.

“Rather, the problem is that we need to reconcile the conflict between the legal systems of the two countries.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman on Monday denied a serious rift between the countries and said the arrest warrants were evidence of fundamental differences between how the countries look at tax law.

He added that it underlined the need to pass as soon as possible the new tax legislation that recently floundered due to opposition from German regional states led by the centre-left opposition.

The accord, due to have taken effect in January 2013, needs to be ratified by both countries’ parliaments, including the German upper house, the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states.

Schäuble criticised the opposition-led government of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, which is facing pivotal elections in May, of exploiting the issue “for political motives”.

The state employs the three tax investigators who have been charged.

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Travel: Are neighbouring countries still open to Swiss tourists?

Borders between Switzerland and its neighbours are open. But given high coronavirus infection rates, border nations have tightened their entry requirements.

Travel: Are neighbouring countries still open to Swiss tourists?
Good old days in Paris. Photo by AFP

Yes, people from Switzerland can still to go to France, Germany, Italy and Austria, but it is not as easy as it was before the second wave of Covid-19 swept the entire region.

Of the four states bordering Switzerland, Austria is the easiest to enter.

For the time being, it does not restrict travellers from Switzerland. The borders remain open and no quarantine or Covid test is required for Swiss residents.

Like Austria, Italy has not to date implemented any access restrictions or quarantine requirements for Switzerland. The only condition set by the Italian authorities is that each person entering the country must complete a form declaring that they have not tested positive for Covid-19. Otherwise, it is necessary to observe a 14-day quarantine. 

However, before travelling south of the border keep in mind that Italian cinemas and theaters are closed, and restaurants must stop serving their customers at 6 pm. The authorities have also imposed a night curfew from 10 pm until 5 am.

READ MORE: How will lockdowns in France and Germany affect Swiss residents? 



Since October 30th, France has been in lockdown, which will last until at least December 1st. As such, travel on French territory is prohibited, except in well-defined cases — including trips to get to work, trips to buy essential goods, or trips for compelling family reasons — and on presentation of an ‘exit certificate’.


Unlike France, Germany has not implemented a new shutdown. However, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities like theaters and cinemas are closed until December.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said last week that the country's borders with its neighbours, including Switzerland, would remain open.

Gemany already placed Switzerland on its quarantine list on October 22nd, because Swiss Covid infection rates exceed those of its neighbour.

This means that anyone who enters from Switzerland must be tested on arrival in Germany. The tested person must then quarantine until the result comes through.

But the German state of Baden-Württemberg, which borders Switzerland, exempts Swiss arrivals from quarantine, under some conditions.

For example, those crossing the border from Switzerland to visit family and friends will be permitted to do so without quarantine, provided they do not stay longer than 48 hours. 

Baden-Württemberg's authorities are also allowing residents of Appenzell, Aargau, Basel, Basel-Country, Jura, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau and Zurich to come to Germany without being tested, as long as they stay no longer than 24 hours.