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Minister returns from Brussels on upbeat note

Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter held “encouraging” meetings with European Union leaders on Tuesday to discuss job training and a free-trade agreement.

The minister went to Brussels largely to sign a “Lifelong Learning” accord that will allow Swiss citizens to pursue educational opportunities across Europe starting next year.

In a meeting with John Dalli, EU health and consumer protection commissioner, Burkhalter also touched on a “delicate” agriculture free-trade agreement. The two held “exploratory talks” on whether negotiations should include products that meet national standards different from those set by the EU.

Prickly subjects such as taxes, Libya and the free movement of people did not burden the talks, Burkhalter said. Rather, the meetings were “positive for both sides,” the minister said.

Burkhalter also met with research commissioners from Ireland and Austria to express an interest in Swiss scientists working even more closely with their EU counterparts.

The interior minister also said he wanted to develop an information exchange system between the EU and Switzerland that would allow health officials to better fight pandemics. A similar system was recently created to combat swine flu. and agencies

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