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European integration is top priority for new Swiss state secretary

Career diplomat Franz von Däniken was named state secretary in Switzerland’s foreign ministry on Monday. Outlining his political vision, he said that Swiss relations with the European Union would be a key priority when he takes up the job in August.

This content was published on June 14, 1999 - 16:05

Career diplomat Franz von Däniken was named state secretary in Switzerland’s foreign ministry on Monday. Outlining his political vision, he said that Swiss relations with the European Union would be a key priority when he takes up the job in August.

Von Däniken was appointed by the Swiss government and will be the number two in the Swiss foreign ministry after Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss.

Von Däniken told a news conference after his appointment that his top priorities would include:

- Improving relations with the European Union: he would help finalize and implement the bilateral agreements, which were reached between Switzerland and the European Union after several years of negotiations. The bilateral agreements still have to be formally ratified by parliaments in Switzerland and all EU member states. The accords cover a wide range of issues -- including transport, free movement of people and work permits – and still face some degree of opposition within Switzerland. Von Däniken said he would also work toward full EU membership for Switzerland.

- UN membership: Von Däniken said he would work closely with Swiss groups campaigning for Swiss membership of the United Nations. Switzerland has never provided armed troops but has contributed otherwise to several U.N. peacekeeping and monitoring missions even though it is not a member.

- Improving relations with the United States: Von Däniken said Swiss relations with Washington had at times been “rather rocky” in the past few years. He was referring to the Nazi gold scandal, when Switzerland and Swiss banks came under massive pressure over dormant World War II era bank accounts and business dealings with Nazi Germany.

- Kosovo: Switzerland should continue to provide humanitarian aid and should actively support the reconstruction of a civilian administration. Von Däniken said he would also like to see continued support for those refugees who go back to Kosovo.

Von Däniken will replace outgoing State Secretary Jakob Kellenberger, who was a leading figure in Switzerland’s bilateral talks with the European Union.

Von Däniken studied law and joined the Swiss foreign ministry in 1976. Most recently, he has been working on Swiss relations with the rest of Europe as well as the United States.

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