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European Parliament to vote on bilateral treaties with Switzerland

The European Parliament has been debating the European Union's bilateral accords with Switzerland, in the run-up to a vote on the agreements later on Thursday.

Analysts are predicting an easy passage for the seven accords, which cover issues ranging from agriculture to transport and the free movement of people. It follows a recommendation last month by a key parliamentary commission for a yes vote.

The commission for industry and external trade highlighted the mutual economic benefits of the accords. It said the vote in Brussels would send a signal to the people of Switzerland as they prepare for a referendum on May 21.

However, the commission also underlined the need for progress in the fight against organised crime and in the realm of taxation. These issues are likely to figure prominently in the European Parliament debate.

The vote is an important hurdle for the bilateral accords, which must also be ratified by the national parliaments of all 15 EU member states before they can enter into law.

This may prove more difficult.

Several EU member states, including Spain, Portugal and Italy, have been critical of Swiss delays in cementing relations with the EU. They have seen the accords as giving a vacillating Switzerland undeserved privileges in areas such as the free movement of labour, social security, and pensions.

swissinfo with agencies

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