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Couchepin says acceptance of bilaterals not yet secured

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has warned that the battle has not yet been won for Swiss voters' acceptance of the bilateral accords with the European Union. The vote takes place on May 21.

Couchepin was speaking in Milan to the general assembly of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Italy.

He said the danger came not from debate, but from its absence,"from silence and unjustified fears."

"The government has said time and time again with one voice that the result of the vote, even if there is a massive "yes", will not be interpreted as an invitation to either join the EU or not join," he said.

"These accords constitute a fundamental step in the development of our economic relations with the European continent. They bring good solutions, adapted to Swiss reality," he added.

He told the assembly that the accords would make Switzerland more attractive from an economic point of view, adding that the Swiss economy was in good shape.

"Estimates for the first three months of 2000 are a sign of the continuation of strong growth, probably much higher than three per cent," he said.

swissinfo with agencies

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