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Couchepin hails Romania trip a success

Couchepin (left) talks to the Romanian president, Ion Iliescu, at Cotroceni palace in Bucharest

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has described Romania as a "land of hope" at the end of a four-day visit to the former communist country.

During his stay in the capital, Bucharest, Couchepin held talks with the Romanian president, Ion Iliescu, and attended a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Couchepin stressed that while certain problems remained, Romania possessed great potential.

The Swiss economics minister held an hour-long meeting on Monday with Iliescu, which was described as "open and warm". The pair discussed Romania's timetable for joining the European Union as well as the country's agricultural policy.

Earlier during Couchepin's visit, the Swiss pledged SFr4 million ($2.5 million) to reduce pollution levels in Bucharest by paying for an upgrade of the city's heating system.

Addressing the 11th annual meeting of the EBRD on Sunday, Couchepin lavished praised on the bank's efforts in helping former communist bloc countries to adapt to the global market.

Energy and transport

He singled out the SFr250 million funding package for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which had boosted the country's energy and transport sectors, as a feather in the bank's cap.

However, Couchepin was less complementary about the role - or lack of one - played by Swiss firms in the EBRD's programmes. "We have to improve this situation," he said.

During his meeting with the bank's president, Jean Lemierre, the Swiss minister also conveyed his support for the EBRD's future expansion into central Asia.

Switzerland is a founder member of the multinational bank, which was set up in 1990, and is at the head of a voting block of countries made up of Liechtenstein, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

swissinfo with agencies

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