Deiss talks tax breaks with major US firm
Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has discussed tax breaks with a major United States pharmaceutical concern at the centre of a planning dispute.
The Swiss authorities are hoping to persuade the unnamed firm to build a production plant in western Switzerland rather than go abroad.
Evelyn Kobelt, spokeswoman for the economics ministry, confirmed a report in Tuesday’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that Deiss had met two representatives from the US pharmaceutical group.
She said the firm’s representatives had presented their plans and both parties had discussed the issue of tax breaks.
But Kobelt refused to comment on the identity of the company, which was named by the newspaper as Amgen, the world’s biggest biotechnology group. Amgen (Europe) is based in Lucerne in central Switzerland.
Representatives from the canton Fribourg and Vaud governments also attended the meeting.
Galmiz (Fribourg), Payerne and Yverdon (both Vaud) have all offered the company land on which to build a production plant.
It is estimated that the project would create around 1,000 jobs and lead to hundreds of millions of francs in investment.
The economics ministry said Deiss was not concerned where the plant was based, as long as it was in Switzerland. According to the Tages-Anzeiger, Switzerland faces competition from Ireland and Singapore.
But plans to site the production plant on former farmland outside the village of Galmiz have drawn the ire of environmentalists and countryside campaigners.
In a bid to bring the plant to Fribourg, the cantonal authorities reclassified 55 hectares of agricultural land as an industrial zone at the end of December.
Campaigners say the decision violates Swiss town and country planning regulations, pointing out that Switzerland has 1,700 hectares of vacant industrial land.
"This location is clearly wrong," said Raimund Rodewald, director of the Swiss Foundation for the Protection of the Countryside.
Rodewald told swissinfo that efforts to persuade the Federal Spatial Development Office to block the move had failed.
Under Swiss legislation, cantons and municipalities have the final say on zoning issues, not the government.
The Swiss Foundation for the Protection of the Countryside says it now plans to press the authorities in canton Fribourg to compensate for the rezoning by designating another 55 hectares as agricultural land.
"We think it would be illegal, if they didn’t do this," added Rodewald.
Three sites – Galmiz, Payerne and Yverdon – in western Switzerland are trying to lure an unnamed American pharmaceutical company to set up a production plant.
They are reportedly up against competition from Ireland and Singapore.
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