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Europe expected to dominate summer session of parliament

The summer parliamentary seesion begins on Monday

(Keystone)

The Swiss parliament's summer session got underway on Monday, with the debate over Europe and the proposed liberalisation of the electricity market expected to dominate the three-week gathering.

The normally tranquil summer session is being watched more closely than usual this year, coming as it does just weeks after Swiss voters overwhelming endorsed a series of bilateral accords with the European Union.

The joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate will consider whether to approve a referendum calling for Switzerland to begin immediate negotiations on EU membership.

The cabinet made clear that it has favoured joining the EU since as long ago as 1992. However, it is firmly opposed to this so-called "Yes to Europe" initiative, because it wants a free hand in deciding when and how to put the membership question before the Swiss people.

The session is also likely to debate the proposed liberalisation of the electricity market. This is in line with the government's policy of aligning Swiss legislation with that of the EU. The prospect of forthcoming energy referenda in September may pre-empt further debate.

The session should see the wrapping up of two outstanding issues: the law governing abortion and the issue of self-defence for Swiss soldiers.

The Senate is to finalise legislation making abortion legal within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Also due to be completed is legislation on sending armed Swiss soldiers abroad to take part in peacekeeping missions. The Senate is sticking to its demand that Swiss soldiers can only be sent on missions that result from an OSCE or United Nations mandate.

by Peter Haller


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