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EU agrees on Swiss payout to new members

Swiss francs will help the EU's new member states swissinfo.ch

The European Union has approved the finer details of an agreement on Switzerland's financial contribution to less wealthy EU countries.

This content was published on February 8, 2006 - 22:40

The deal, which must still be approved at ministerial level, brings an end to long wrangling over which countries should benefit from non-member Switzerland's contribution to the EU's cohesion funds.

Wednesday's agreement ensures that the SFr1 billion ($770 million) pledged by Switzerland over five years will go to the EU's ten newest member states to help them develop economically and socially.

Bern had insisted that the money be reserved only for these countries.

Last year, some of the EU's older members, such as Spain and Portugal, also demanded a share of the money.

Under the new agreement, about half will go to projects in Poland, SFr130 million to Hungary and SFr110 million to the Czech Republic.

A further SFr2 million has been reserved for projects deemed a high priority.

The new deal is now subject to the approval of the Swiss government.

Contentment

For its part, the Swiss Mission to the EU in Brussels said that it was content with the agreement reached.

"We hope that this development will give a push to the ratification of the [second set of] bilateral accords," said spokesman Hanspeter Mock.

The accords regulate several areas of cooperation with the EU from trade to tax and police and asylum cooperation.

Bern hopes EU states will ratify the accords between March and May this year.

This sentiment was also echoed by Austria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Switzerland had promised to pay SFr1 billion into the cohesion funds when it signed the second set of bilateral accords with the EU in May 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The second set of bilateral accords between the Swiss and the EU were concluded in May 2004.

Closer security and asylum cooperation with the EU, the fight against customs fraud, education, media, statistics and processed agricultural products are also part of the second set of bilateral agreements.

The first set of bilateral agreements came into force in 2002.

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Key facts

The EU Cohesion Fund helps member states to reduce economic and social disparities and to stabilise their economies.
Eligible are the least prosperous member states whose gross national product per capita is below 90 per cent of the EU-average.

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