Swiss lawmakers in the lower house of parliament are demanding more information on what they called a "black box" agreement to allow the country's banks to cooperate with the U.S. to end a tax evasion dispute.
Parliamentarians followed a proposal from the Social Democrats SP, with 100 in favor and 90 voting against, urging the government to provide more details. There were 4 abstentions.
"This measure is a totally unreasonable imposition on the democratic process," said Susanne Leutenegger Oberholzer, a SP lawmaker. "We only get to find out what it contains once we've voted."
Switzerland is hoping to resolve a U.S. investigation of at least 14 financial firms that allegedly helped Americans evade taxes. No details on the potential fines and payments have been made public, with Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf saying the U.S. wanted them to remain private until after the parliamentary vote.
"We have to vote about a black box," Roland Rino Buechel, a member of the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party SVP, said during the debate in Bern.
Lawmakers can submit questions to the lower house's economics committee until tomorrow and the committee will then send them to the government, Christophe Darbellay, who head's the commission, told AWP.
In a break with usual procedure, the bill, presented only last week, is being discussed by both chambers in the same session running through June 21. It could come into force as early as July 1, and would give the banks a year for each individually to settle with the U.S.
"The motion doesn't change the calendar at all," Marie- Jose Portmann of the parliamentary information office said by telephone.
The economics committee of the upper house is scheduled to hold a press conference on the proposal in Bern tomorrow, with the plenary debate set for June 12, according to a schedule published earlier this week. The full lower house is due to discuss the topic on June 18, according to that schedule.
Parliamentarians rejected a SVP proposal to take the bill off the agenda entirely.
"It's pure blackmail," said SVP delegate Christoph Blocher, who formerly served as the country's justice minister. "Once we've agreed to it, Germany, France and Italy will want the same thing."