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EU commissioner denounces Switzerland over cigarette smuggling

Italian police inspect boxes of cigarettes. Italy has criticised Switzerland for not doing enough to tackle smuggling

(Keystone)

Switzerland has once again been criticised in Europe for failing to crack down on cigarette smugglers despite an agreement reached with the European Union earlier this month to start negotiations to stamp out fraud.

In an interview with the "SonntagsBlick" newspaper, the European Budget Commissioner, Michaele Schreyer, accused Switzerland of not doing enough to stop cigarette smuggling.

Schreyer warned that if Switzerland wanted to join Europe's main trading bloc one day, then it had to tackle the problem more effectively. He said that the smugglers were taking advantage of relaxed Swiss laws on tobacco trafficking.

The EU Commission has said that smuggling and other illegal activities conducted through Switzerland cost the group "billions of euros" a year.

Switzerland's geographical position in the centre of Europe, while outside of the 15-nation bloc, means that it is a strategic staging post for smugglers.

"We're not complaining about a lack of will, but more that the cooperation protocols with Switzerland are not being adequately enforced," Schreyer told the newspaper.

The EU has asked Switzerland to step up its fight against customs fraud and said that it saw closer cooperation in tackling fraud as a "precondition for further steps towards strengthening ties" with Switzerland.

Earlier this month, the EU and Switzerland agreed to start negotiating an accord on closer cooperation.

swissinfo with agencies

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