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Leading lights of scientific community for EU bilaterals

The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, and the Swiss Nobel Prize winner, Rolf Zinkernagel, have stressed the importance of Switzerland's bilateral treaties with the European Union for science and research

The Swiss interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, and the Nobel Prize winner, Rolf Zinkernagel, have stressed the importance of Switzerland's bilateral treaties with the European Union for science and research.

Speaking at a press conference in Berne, Dreifuss, who's responsible for research and education, said the accords would help close the gap in international research co-operation. She said Swiss scientists would gain full access to EU projects if the treaties were accepted by voters in a nation-wide ballot on May 21st.

The 1996 Nobel Prize winner for Medicine, Zinkernagel, said education and research were the best investments in the country's future. He said Switzerland would lose the high scientific standards it has reached if it were not allowed to co-operate with EU researchers.

For the president of the research committee in the Swiss engineering industry, Andreas Steiner, exporting branches and small and medium-sized businesses would benefit immensely from EU science projects.

The accord on science and research is one of seven agreements with the EU. It would allow full access to all EU projects, research grants and conferences, in exchange for a contribution from the Swiss government of about SFr200 million annually.

Since 1987, Switzerland has been allowed to take part in a series of projects on a trial basis, while paying about SFr140 million every year.

The other six accords with the EU cover the free movement of people, agriculture, land transport, civil aviation, technical barriers to trade, and public procurement.

The Swiss government and parliament have already approved the treaties, but mainly right-wing groups have challenged them in a referendum. In 1992, Swiss voters rejected closer ties with the EU.

swissinfo and agencies




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