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Media welcome EU vote

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(Keystone)

The Swiss press has welcomed the adoption of the seven bilateral accords with the European Union on Sunday. Most newspapers on Monday hailed the vote as the end of Swiss isolationism, and the start of a normalisation of relations with the EU.

The conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung says it is a clear victory for the government's European policy, but warns that it must not be interpreted as any more than a 'yes' to the seven bilateral accords.

"It is not a signal for rapid membership of the EU, nor does it mean the end of the process of integration with the EU."

The NZZ says the treaties will form the basis for further steps towards the 15-nation body, with both Switzerland and the EU have already said they are willing to take.

"At the same time as it pursues the bilateral path," the daily adds, "the ground must also be prepared domestically for possible future membership of the EU."

In this respect, it says, fears must be addressed and questions relating in particular to the future of Swiss democratic institutions must be answered.

The liberal Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger said the scale of the vote for the accords (67 per cent) was a welcome surprise, and that the result was due to a marriage of political vision and economic sense, as well as the fact that Switzerland is doing rather well economically.

However, the Tages Anzeiger warns it would be dangerous for the government to channel this newly-won political capital into a head-on campaign for entry into the EU. It said this would play into the hands of right-wing populists. Instead, the paper argues, next on the list should be a rethink on Switzerland's relations with the United Nations and Nato.

The main French-language daily, Le Temps, declares the language divide was non-existent in the vote, and that the results surpassed even the most opitimistic prognosis. It concludes the age of pessimism that coloured Swiss politics in 1992 has been replaced by a new-found confidence and ambition.

However, Le Temps says the the issue of EU membership has not gone away and calls for a major debate. But at least a taboo has been abolished, it says, so that a debate is now possible.

In Ticino, where the vote against the treaties was largest (the other canton to vote against the accords was Schwyz), newspapers called on Berne not to ignore its voice even if the result in the rest of Switzerland was overwhelming.

Three Ticinese papers, La Regione, Corriere del Ticino and Giornale del Popolo all interpret the 'no' vote as a signal of disquiet from Italian speaking Switzerland.

They said the region's distrust is a direct result of the federal government's persistent shortsightedness and refusal to consider the canton's real fears about pressure on the regional job market and an avalanche of trucks passing through.

In contrast to this and the cautious optimism from most other papers, the mass-circulation Blick, took its enthusiasm to the extreme. It's banner headline read: "Yes, We are Europeans!"

by Jamsheda Ahmad

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