The centre-right Christian Democrats have voted overwhelmingly in favour of closer cooperation with the European Union on security and asylum.This content was published on February 5, 2005 - 15:32
The party also gave its support to the extension of the Swiss labour market to the ten new EU member states at a meeting in Auvernier near Neuchâtel on Saturday.
The Christian Democrats, one of Switzerland's four main political parties, voted by 176 to zero in favour of the Schengen/Dublin accord on cross-border crime and asylum.
The Schengen/Dublin treaty forms part of a second set of bilateral accords with the EU, which were approved by parliament in December.
But the treaty is being challenged by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which claims it threatens the country’s sovereignty.
If the party manages to collect enough signatures, the accord will go to a nationwide vote on June 5.
The Christian Democrats also voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the free movement of people to the new - and mostly eastern European - EU countries.
This would take place by means of an additional protocol to the first set of bilateral agreements, which opened up the Swiss labour market to the original 15 members of the EU in June last year.
Parliament approved the government's plans in December, after agreeing to introduce additional measures to counter the threat of wage dumping.
But opponents of the accord, including the People’s Party and a leftwing committee, look set to force a nationwide vote on the issue on September 25.
They claim that opening the Swiss labour market will increase unemployment and put pressure on the social security system.
Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, the only member of the Christian Democratic Party in the Swiss cabinet, told delegates that both accords were essential for the reform and growth of the Swiss economy.
Deiss said he understood that people were worried about their jobs due to the extension of the labour accord to the ten new EU member states.
But he argued that it was not correct to say that it would lead to more unemployment in Switzerland. He added that the accord was essential for making Switzerland attractive for companies and to stop jobs being moved abroad.
Furthermore, a “no” vote would put the first package of bilateral accords in jeopardy, said Deiss.
Doris Leuthard, president of the Christian Democrats, slammed the People’s Party for its stance on the two issues.
She said that its attitude was bad for the economy and cultivated a climate of fear.
swissinfo with agencies
A survey published on January 23 showed that two-thirds of the population approved of Switzerland ratifying the Schengen/Dublin treaty.
But only a slight majority – 52 per cent – were in favour of extending the free movement of people to the ten new EU member states.
The Swiss will only vote on Schengen/Dublin and on the free movement of people if the different committees collect 50,000 signatures to trigger referendums.
Schengen/Dublin is opposed by the People's Party as well as the isolationist Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland.
The extension of the Swiss labour market to the ten new EU member states is opposed by the Swiss Democrats, with support from the People's Party and a leftwing committee.
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