Deiss says bilateral accords with EU under threat

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has expressed concern that the row between Austria and the European Union could taint the debate over the bilateral treaty between Switzerland and the EU.

This content was published on February 6, 2000 - 17:13

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has expressed concern that the row between Austria and the European Union could taint the debate over the bilateral treaty between Switzerland and the EU. His comments came just days after two small right-wing parties collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the treaty later this year. The Swiss Democrats and the Lega dei Ticinesi said that what they called EU interference in Austrian politics had generated more support for their isolationist platform.

Speaking on Swiss-French radio, Deiss accused the two parties of scaremongering. He also denied that the bilateral agreements brought Switzerland any closer to eventual EU membership.

Deiss refused to criticise the inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria's new ruling coalition, saying that he would judge the government by its actions. The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, has accused Austria's leaders of cynical opportunism. But Deiss said that the alliance between the Austrian People's Party and the Freedom Party appeared to be the country's only way out of its political crisis.

On Friday, the Swiss government called on the new coalition in Austria to ensure respect, tolerance and understanding for all people, irrespective of their origin, religion or opinions. The cabinet said it was watching the situation in Vienna closely. The EU has broken off bilateral contacts with Vienna.

Meanwhile, two opinion polls published in Swiss newspapers on Sunday give conflicting pictures of the level of support for the bilateral treaty among voters. The SonntagsZeitung suggests that only 57 per cent are in favour, while a survey carried out for the SonntagsBlick and Swiss television suggests that three quarters of voters agree with the treaty.

From staff and wire reports


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