The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has arrived in Dublin where he will try to persuade the Irish government to ratify a series of bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the European Union.This content was published on October 11, 2001 - 13:39
Deiss is leading a delegation of Swiss diplomats to lobby the Irish to put the ratification process in motion.
The Irish government has yet to draft the necessary bill to put before the "Dáil" - the country's House of Representatives - even though the treaties were due to come into effect last January.
Until a week ago, the Irish authorities were still planning to amend the treaties to include a "carriers liability bill", which would punish anyone who brings illegal immigrants into Ireland, whether inadvertently or not.
After much diplomatic manoeuvring, the Irish authorities agreed to drop the plan and draft a separate bill. It was feared that ratification might not be completed by the deadline of November 30, as the said immigration bill might prove to be controversial.
No real opposition
There is no real opposition in the Irish parliament to the treaties, which govern mainly trade issues and the free movement of people.
But there is a perception abroad that the Irish department of justice, which handles the issue, is not giving the matter the appropriate priority. The Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, is said to have raised the issue last week during a meeting in Moscow with her Irish counterpart, John O'Donoghue.
Deiss, however, is not due to meet any officials from the justice department. His talks will be exclusively with the department of foreign affairs, headed by Brian Cowen, who this month also became president of the United Nations Security Council.
For the past two years, Swiss diplomats have been lobbying the Irish authorities in vain attempt to speed up the ratification process.
Some say Switzerland has only itself to blame because it did not bother to cultivate close bilateral relations with Dublin when Ireland was the only neutral member of the EU. That was before other neutrals, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined.
Now, they say, Switzerland is paying the price for voluntarily keeping itself out in the cold.
Apart from Ireland, only Belgium and France have still to ratify the treaties. On Thursday, the French Senate gave them the go-ahead, and the lower house is expected to follow suit when it debates the issue on November 20.
by Martin Alioth in Dublin
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