One day after the French parliament, the Irish Senate has approved a series of bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union.
The Irish government had already said yes last week, and no surprises were expected form the senators on Wednesday. "The five or six representatives present all voted for the accords," said Switzerland's ambassador to Eire, Eric Pfister.
The members of the Dail, the lower house, still have to give their approval, something that should happen next Thursday according to Pfister. The ambassador sees no reason for the politicians to turn the agreement.
Ratification had been delayed in Ireland, where the accords had been linked to an aviation law. But a request from the Swiss authorities to separate the two issues was accepted last month.
French say yes
After the French parliament's approval on Tuesday - nearly a year after they were due to be implemented - it seems more and more likely the accords will 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.
Recognition of qualifications
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 is the last country yet to discuss the accords at a national level, which is needed before they can be implemented.
swissinfo with agencies
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