Austrian finance ministry takes hard line in EU bank secrecy row

VIENNA (REUTERS) - Austrian law does not let the country share personal information about bank depositors with other states, Finance Minister Maria Fekter said on Tuesday, taking a hard line in a row with the European Union over banking secrecy.

"In our constitution, privacy and data protection get very high priority. That really does not fit with an automatic exchange" of depositor data, she told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting.

The European Commission warned Austria on Monday that its banking secrecy regime would leave it in a "lonely and unsustainable position" if it did not follow the same rules as other countries in sharing information on foreign depositors.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, has said he was open for talks on the subject, but Dr Fekter and other members of the conservative People's Party have insisted that Austria cannot abandon the country's centuries-old tradition of keeping bank accounts private.