Deiss receives ratification assurances in Dublin
After talks on Thursday with his Irish counterpart in Dublin, the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has reported progress on Ireland's long-awaited ratification of bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the European Union.
In addition to the developments in Ireland, the ratification process also got a vote of confidence in France, where the Senate gave the green light to the treaty on the free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU. Switzerland is now waiting for a response from Belgium, which has still to ratify the treaty.
Ireland said they would ratify the bilateral treaties, which were concluded between Switzerland and the EU in November 1999. The timely decision means that Ireland will now meet the ratification deadline of November 30th 2001.
Before Thursday, Ireland stood alone among the other 15 member states, because it had not even drafted a bill to allow for the ratification of the treaty on the free movement of people, the only one that requires national ratification.
During his talks Deiss referred to Tuesday's meeting of the Irish cabinet, when the government decided to accelerate the legislative process. A separate ratification bill will now go before the two houses of the Irish parliament.
The previous approach, to attach the bilateral treaties to a domestic immigration bill, was dropped for being too slow and fraught with unforeseeable delays.
Deiss was, however, unable to explain the reasons for the Irish delay, but he did admit that the free movement of people was obviously not as high on the political agenda in Ireland as in Switzerland.
The Irish cabinet's decision to accelerate the ratification process bodes well for a timely conclusion to what has been a lengthy legislative process.
Other matters discussed
Deiss and his Irish counterpart, Brian Cowen, also took full advantage of their rare meeting to discuss other matters.
One of the topics was the current Irish presidency of the UN Security Council, with Deiss happy to report that such a task did not seem to be impeded by Ireland's neutrality.
The two also discussed the forthcoming Swiss referendum on UN membership and Cowen enquired about Swiss experiences with financial measures to combat global terrorism.
Finally, the two ministers touched on the next package of bilateral
negotiations between Switzerland and the EU, which includes deposit interest retention and the Schengen agreement on border controls and other matters.
Ireland and the UK are not part of the Schengen agreement, but Switzerland and Ireland are planning closer cooperation following the tragic events of September 11th.
by Martin Alioth
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