VIENNA – Most Austrians are in favor of relaxing the strict banking secrecy rules that have isolated the Alpine republic from its European peers, according to two polls published on Saturday.
Only 18 percent want to keep banking secrecy in its current form, a Gallup poll for daily tabloid Oesterreich found, while a second poll for news weekly profil found only 14 percent would be opposed to Austria's sharing details of foreigners' accounts.
Austria is under pressure to share information with its European Union partners on accounts held by foreigners after Luxembourg decided this month to do so, leaving it as the EU's last holdout.
Currently Austria deducts interest income tax at source from foreign accounts and sends most of proceeds back to the depositors' home countries without revealing names of the account holders.
Chancellor Werner Faymann has indicated he is ready to exchange some details on foreigners' accounts but will protect confidentiality for law-abiding Austrian savers.
But Finance Minister Maria Fekter has said she will fight "like a lioness" for banking secrecy, which has been traditionally cherished in Austria.
The new polls suggested that attachment to confidentiality may be waning, especially for foreigners.
The Oesterreich poll found 44 percent in favor of Faymann's compromise, while 31 percent were ready to give up banking secrecy altogether. Half thought Fekter's stance unsustainable.
The profil poll, carried out by the Karmasin market research institute, found as many as 71 percent of Austrians in favor of Austria's sharing details of foreigners' accounts.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Stephen Powell)