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Funds for eastern Europe passed by parliament

The House of Representatives has approved a government proposal to grant SFr257 million ($243 million) for Bulgaria and Romania.

This content was published on September 7, 2009 - 17:46

The funds are aimed at helping to reduce economic and social differences within the European Union, according to Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

During a debate on Monday the House rejected proposals by the rightwing Swiss People's Party to deny the financial payments because Switzerland is not a EU member.

It also voted down plans by the centre-left Social Democrats and Greens to put aside a share of the funds for projects to help the Roma gypsy minority in eastern Europe.

Calmy-Rey said the Swiss payment was not only a sign of solidarity with the region but helped boost political and economic ties.

But she added that both countries had to increase efforts to reform their justice systems and fight organised crime.

The Senate, the other parliamentary chamber, will debate the bill at a later date.

Voters in 2006 came out in favour of granting financial assistance for eastern European countries within the EU and in February 2009 decided to extend a key labour accord to Bulgaria and Romania.

Both countries joined the EU in 2007. Switzerland has concluded about 20 major bilateral accords with the 27-bloc nation bloc.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

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