Another member for EEA zone

The tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein, home to twice as many "mail- box" companies as its 30,000-strong population, voted yesterday to join the huge European free trade zone, writes John Willcock.

By voting to become the 18th member of the European Economic Area - EEA - Liechtenstein is breaking with its larger neighbour and historical partner, Switzerland, which rejected EEA entry three years ago.

The EEA already connects the 15-nation European Union with Iceland and Norway.

Liechtenstein is not surrendering its centuries' old tradition as a home for anonymous bank accounts and tax-dodging companies.

Two years ago it clashed with British liquidators over the fate of assets held by the late Robert Maxwell's ultimate holding companies, a series of secret trusts or "stiftungs".

The government's campaign to win over public opinion to the EEA included the assurance that membership would not mean surrendering power to Brussels bureaucrats.

In particular, membership would not challenge key laws on bank secrecy and confidential company structure, the government said.

The only other big employer in the principality apart from financial services is the post office, celebrated for producing highly decorative stamps.

The alpine principality voted 6,411 to 5,061 in favour. The outcome confirms an earlier vote in 1992 when neighboring Switzerland voted against EEA membership.

The Swiss decision meant Liechtenstein's treaty had to be renegotiated since the two countries share an open border policy.

Sunday's results remained uncertain until polling stations closed although opinion polls earlier had shown 50 per cent of the voting public in favor.

Opponents feared that by entering the EEA, Liechtenstein could gradually drift away from its close relationship with Switzerland. Liechtenstein uses the Swiss franc as its currency.

With more than a third of its population foreign, immigration was also an important issue.

As a special concession to this, EEA members allowed the principality to continue regulating immigration despite usual trade zone rules guaranteeing free movement of people among member states.

Liechtenstein ruler Prince Hans-Adam II expressed satisfaction with the 55.9 per cent vote in favor which had barely altered from three years before.

"I am happy that we can now see clearly where integration in Europe is leading us," he said. But the principality would not now be pushing for membership of the EU.

"That would be a shoe size too big for us," he said.

Turn-out for the vote was 82 per cent, slightly down on 1992. "Europe now takes much more notice of us," ruling Prince Hans Adam II said.

"The EEA is the perfect solution for a country our size.

"The EU is one shoe-size too big, even if you just consider the personnel we would need," he told Reuters.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible