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Swiss lobby for greater support in US

A group of Swiss parliamentarians has gone to Washington to promote national interests

An eight-member delegation of Swiss parliamentarians has been holding talks in the United States this week in an attempt to promote Swiss interests with the Bush administration.

Topping the agenda for talks in New York over the next two days is Switzerland’s desire to join the United Nations – an issue due to be put to the vote in Switzerland next year. The UN General Assembly is expected to debate the topic later this year.

Earlier this week, the parliamentarians – members of the Foreign Affairs Committee – held a series of meetings with representatives of the Bush administration and Congress, as well as with officials from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

At a press briefing, the head of the Swiss delegation, Walter Frey, said that “Switzerland is highly regarded” in Washington. Alluding to the controversy over Holocaust-era accounts in Swiss banks and money laundering affairs, Frey said that, “after a nervous period of time, bilateral relations are back on their normal course”.

However, differences remain between the two countries over the environment and human rights. Another parliamentarian, Lili Nabholz, deplored that “human rights are not high on the agenda of the new American government”.

“The Bush Administration has a corporate management attitude but it will be interesting to see if it moves on the issue of values”, Nabholz added.

Another member of the delegation, Ulrich Schluer, pointed to good business relations. Switzerland now gets “more sympathy and understanding with the Bush Administration on business affairs,” he said.

The members of the Committee stressed the need for Switzerland to do more to advance its interests in the US. “Our position is very asymmetrical”, said deputy Hans Zbinden. “We are very isolated in political circles, although we are well integrated in international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank.”

Remo Galli, another member of the delegation, suggested that one way for Switzerland to make headway in Washington is to diversify its approach and reach out to the so-called “think tanks”, research and policy bodies which play a crucial role in defining foreign affairs guidelines for the US government.

By Marie-Christine Bonzom, Washington

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR