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
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments