France gives thumbs up to bilateral accords

French parliament ratified the accords nearly a year after they were due to be implemented

France has finally ratified a series of bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union.

This content was published on November 21, 2001 - 09:25

The French parliament's approval of the accords - nearly a year after they were due to be implemented - means they are likely to come into force in early 2002.

After a lengthy debate on Tuesday evening, the lower house voted in favour of the accords, which cover cross-border trade and transport issues. Several deputies in the assembly dismissed the deal as unfair, saying they favoured Switzerland.

The president of the French Foreign Affairs Commission, the former socialist minister, Francois Loncle, said the Swiss "stand to benefit from all the advantages of the EU without having to join."

He was referring to an accord governing the free movement of people, which will effectively allow Swiss citizens to work in the EU some four years before their EU counterparts can work in Switzerland.

Of the seven dossiers signed between Bern and Brussels in 1999, the National Assembly had only to vote on the agreement governing the free movement of people. This accord needs to be ratified by all EU member parliaments in order for the package of seven accords to come into effect.

The French government said the accord would make life easier for the 70,000 people, many of whom are French, who cross the border each day to work in Switzerland.

It will also work to the advantage of students and independent workers who stand to benefit from greater recognition of their qualifications.

French president Jacques Chirac has yet to complete the process and sign the agreement which will then be sent back to Brussels. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, ratified the accords on October 11 after several setbacks.

Belgium and Ireland have yet to give their approval to the accords before it can be implemented. The Irish senate is due to vote on the issue on Wednesday.

swissinfo with agencies

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