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Government to tackle major policy issues

The Swiss government is expected to tackle a series of major policy issues in the coming months, including Swiss membership of the United Nations, tax reform for middle-income families and nuclear energy legislation.

This content was published on January 3, 2000 - 13:04

The Swiss government is expected to tackle a series of major policy issues in the coming months, including Swiss membership of the United Nations, tax reform for middle-income families and nuclear energy legislation.

U.N. membership has been a controversial issue for years. Opponents say Switzerland can achieve more by participating in "efficient" U.N. missions, rather than joining what has often been described as a "chatter box".

However, when outlining its policy priorities for the year 2000 a few weeks ago, the cabinet made clear it would push the U.N. issue. The government's position is that Switzerland should join the world body at the "earliest possible moment" so the country can live up to its international responsibilities.

Geneva hosts a number of U.N. offices, and Switzerland has regularly contributed (unarmed) personnel to peacekeeping and election monitoring missions over the past decades.

Switzerland's contribution of a lightly-armed military unit to serve alongside KFor forces in Kosovo has raised the politically sensitive issue of whether Switzerland should contribute armed troops to such missions.

Both right and left have voiced opposition to armed deployments, even if they are made up of volunteers only. But Defence Minister Adolf Ogi has said he will seek legislative amendments that would allow armed missions - provided the weapons are used for self-defence only.

Nuclear energy is another issue that will likely cause heated debates in parliament.

The government is pushing legislative amendments that would allow Swiss voters to decide at the ballot box whether they want any new nuclear plants.

The draft proposal comes in response to political initiatives which were presented to the federal authorities in September and are aimed at phasing out nuclear energy.

Tax reform will also be on the government's agenda in the coming six months. The cabinet wants parliament to ease the tax burden on middle-income families, and to harmonise taxes for married and unmarried couples.

From staff and wire reports.

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