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Ministers promise no new energy taxes nor agriculture subsidies

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has pledged to continue state agricultural subsidies while the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, has promised there will be no new energy tax.

Speaking in the “Berner Zeitung”, Couchepin said the current SFr4 billion in state subsidies would continue, but promised further structural changes. He said that over the next few years, the number of farms would continue to decrease by two to three per cent.

Couchepin said he supported the government policy paper for agriculture, Horizon 2010, which calls for, among other things, a reduction of milk production quotas or market subsidies.

The cabinet minister also stressed that farmers must strive to become entrepreneurs and adapt themselves to the market and he called for more of a free market-oriented agricultural system.

He said the World Trade Organisation’s agricultural policies would set the tune for Switzerland over the next ten years.

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, announced that there was no room in the new financial regime for new taxes on energy.

“After the people voted no (in the September 24 referendum), I believe that that the question of new energy fees should be put to one side for the moment,” Villiger said.

The cabinet minister said that any new tax would have to contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption, failing which, any such moves would prove fruitless.

In last week’s nation-wide referendum, the Swiss people rejected three initiatives which proposed raising a levy on the use of non-renewable energy sources. Speaking for the cabinet, the energy minister, Moritz Leuenberger, said the results were a setback for the government’s energy policies.

Leuenberger said the proposed ecological tax reform – which required the acceptance of one of the initiatives – would now have to be forgotten for a long time.

The first measure, known as the Solar Initiative, was rejected by nearly 68 per cent of the population, while the two other related initiatives were also turned down, but by lesser margins.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR