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Environmental organisations want guarantees for Swiss-EU accords

Swiss environmental organisations on Friday threatened to force a national vote on the bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union, unless stricter measures are taken to protect the environment.

This content was published on August 13, 1999 - 12:38

Swiss environmental organisations on Friday threatened to force a national vote on the bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union, unless stricter measures are taken to protect the environment.

Switzerland and the EU signed the comprehensive bilateral accords in June. They must still be ratified by the parliaments of all 15 EU member states as well as Switzerland.

The accords cover economic and technological cooperation, public procurement, mutual acceptance of diplomas and licences, agricultural trade, aviation issues, road and rail traffic and the free movement of people.

Political observers expect that some groups in Switzerland will force a national referendum on the accords.

Greenpeace, the WWF and the Alpine Initiative groups told a news conference in the capital Berne that parliament must support a series of pro-environment measures which have already been proposed by the House of Representatives’ transport committee.

The committee says that the number of lorries crossing the Swiss Alps must be limited to 650,000 per year. That limit must be reached by 2007.

The proposal is much stricter than the Swiss government’s plan, which calls for that same limit to be reached by 2013.
Swiss voters have approved the construction of two key rail tunnels across the Alps: The Lötschberg tunnel, which should open in 2007, and a tunnel through the Gotthard, which in turn should be completed by 2013.

The transport committee is also calling for more federal funding of the Swiss railway system. It says the government should increase subsidies to SFr3.3 billion ($2.2 billion) between 2000 and 2010.

The main thrust of the groups’ demands is that all additional lorries must use railway transport to get their goods across the key north-south trade route across the Swiss Alps.

In a national vote in 1994, Swiss voters came out in favour of a proposal to force transalpine traffic from road to rail by the year 2005.

However, the precise modalities of how to implement such a transfer are still unclear. The debate has also been complicated by the Swiss-EU accords, in which transport was a key issue.

Hundreds of thousands of EU lorries cross the Swiss Alps each year, and several EU members made clear they would not agree to the comprehensive accords with Switzerland unless the Swiss government compromised on the transport issue.


From staff and wire reports.

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