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EU 40 tonne trucks may be on the way earlier than planned

Forty tonne trucks could be making their own way across Switzerland after January 1.

(Keystone / Martin Ruetschi)

The Swiss government may open the country's borders to a limited number of 40 tonne trucks on January 1. The European Commission has submitted this proposal to a group of European Union experts, who will decide whether to accept it.

This solution could go a long way to resolving a potential transport dispute between Switzerland and the EU.

The head of the Switzerland's federal transport department, Max Friedli, has been holding discussions in Brussels over the heavy goods vehicle tax on EU trucks which Switzerland plans to introduce at the start of January.

The tax itself was not a formal part of the bilateral accords that Switzerland signed with the EU, but the number and weight of the trucks concerned are covered by one of the accords.

Switzerland has made it clear it will go ahead with the tax, despite the delay by the parliaments of all 15 EU member states to ratify the package of seven bilateral accords before the scheduled deadline of January.

Final ratification by the EU states is not expected before the middle of 2001. The Swiss people approved it in May.

EU officials are reported to have complained that the introduction of a new tax should at least coincide with the introduction of the bilateral accord covering transport, which foresees 300,000 40 tonne trucks being allowed to cross through Switzerland in 2001 and 2002.

The group of EU experts responsible for relations with Switzerland will now have to decide whether to accept the Swiss proposal. The EU member states could still insist on waiting on the introduction of the bilateral accord before Switzerland applies the heavy goods vehicle tax.

The bilateral transport agreement plans for Switzerland to align itself with the 40 tonne limit as of 2005. From 2001 onwards, the number of 40 tonne trucks crossing through Switzerland would increase gradually from the original 300,000 limit.

swissinfo with agencies


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