Centre-right focuses on asylum and research

Radical Party president Fulvio Pelli (left) with the Swiss finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz on Saturday Keystone

Switzerland's Radicals battened down the hatches this weekend, while the other centre-right party, the Christian Democrats considered support for research.

This content was published on January 14, 2006 minutes

The Radicals voted in favour of tightening the country's legislation on asylum seekers and foreigners, while the Christian Democrats demanded more funding for innovation.

The Radical Party delegates, meeting near Bern on Saturday, almost unanimously accepted the latest revisions of the laws on asylum and foreigners ahead of possible nationwide votes.

Parliament accepted this tough new legislation in December. Justice Minister Christoph Blocher of the rightwing People's Party masterminded the tightening of the asylum law.

"The new asylum law allows the processing of requests to be more efficient and helps fights abuses," said parliamentarian Philippe Müller on Saturday. He was backed up by party president Fulvio Pelli, who said the legislation closed legal loopholes.

The measures are designed to crack down on rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, and reduce costs. The number of asylum applications in Switzerland has been falling steadily though and is now at its lowest level since 1987.

Tough measures

Asylum applicants without identity papers would have to prove that they are not responsible for the situation.

Rejected asylum seekers would have their social welfare payments stopped. The aim is to speed up their deportation.

Under the new law, the maximum detention period for foreigners awaiting deportation would also increase to 18 months for adults and nine months for minors over 15.

The new foreigners' legislation faced no real opposition among the Radicals. Müller said that it allowed Switzerland to welcome citizens of the European Union, while restricting immigration from other countries.

The new law would only allow non-EU citizens to immigrate if their professional qualifications make it necessary.

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party have already announced referendums against both laws. Backed by churches and humanitarian organisations, they believe the asylum law breaches the constitution and international law.

Research and innovation

Meeting in Näfels, canton Glarus, the Christian Democrats chose to focus on research. Delegates called on the government to develop a strategy to promote Swiss innovation and technology.

The centre-right party wants paperwork to be reduced for start-ups and more support given to young entrepreneurs.

Party president Doris Leuthard said that basic research also needed more funding, but only in strategic areas with good future prospects. These include nanotechnology, life sciences and information technology.

Leuthard added that this did not mean that funding would be cut in other fields, but that extra money was required for areas where Switzerland could make an impact, boost economic growth and create jobs.

The Christian Democrats have called for an annual increase of at least six per cent of research funding. Economics Minister Joseph Deiss told the delegates that the government wants to increase funding by that amount for the 2008-2011 financial period, targeting specific domains.

But Deiss - a Christian Democrat himself - added that there had to be closer ties between the economy and the country's universities, developing education to respond to economic requirements.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Voters can slow down parliamentary processes and veto new laws or amendments to existing laws by using the referendum.

At least 50,000 signatures have to be collected from voters within 100 days of the publication of the law in order for it to proceed.

The popular initiative allows citizens to request the addition, the amendment, or the repeal of an article in the federal constitution.

At least 100,000 signatures have to be collected from voters in order for it to proceed.

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