No one could be happier these days than Algirdas Semeta. A former Lithuanian finance minister, sidelined until recently by his lack of charisma and continuous obstruction by some European governments, the EU Commissioner for Taxation will be leading the discussions during the European Finance Ministers Meeting on May 14th, specially focused on the delicate questions of banking secrecy and tax fraud.
Mr Semeta, nowadays courted by the media, hopes to then be in a position to get unanimous approval for his longtime proposal: an automatic exchange of tax information between the EU's 27 member states. After overcoming the latest obstacles from Luxembourg and Austria, the plan will also be negotiated with neighbouring non-EU countries like Switzerland, Monaco or Liechtenstein. If the Lithuanian Commissioner has his way, any bank account held by an EU citizen in those countries will be, from January 2015 onwards, immediately reported to the tax authority of its country of origin.
This tectonic shift is largely the result of pressures since 2009-2010 from the United States on financial centres and banks suspected of withholding crucial tax information about US citizens with financial assets abroad.