Switzerland and Brussels say they have made some progress but not yet found a solution to a row over Bern’s contribution to the enlarged European Union.This content was published on February 1, 2005 - 21:16
The announcement came after Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey held talks with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner for external relations.
Switzerland, which is not a member of the 25-nation bloc, has offered to contribute SFr1 billion ($840 million) at a rate of SFr200 million a year to the EU’s Cohesion Fund over the next five years.
But negotiations over the terms of the contribution have been difficult. The EU wants a binding agreement, whereas the Swiss only want a memorandum of understanding.
There is also a question mark over which countries should receive the funds. Bern wants the money to go to the ten new - and mostly Eastern European - member states, but Greece, Spain and Portugal also want a share.
Speaking after the meeting, Ferrero-Waldner said that “a certain rapprochement” had been made over the deal but that many key details – the countries and the wording of the accord – had not yet been agreed.
For her part, Calmy-Rey underlined the importance of helping the new EU members.
“Switzerland benefits both politically and economically from the enlarged EU, and this merits our support,” she said.
The minister added that the conditions for an efficient and beneficial use of the funds would be best achieved by direct cooperation with the countries concerned and that first contacts had already been made.
She also reiterated that an additional framework agreement on the matter was not necessary.
A meeting between Swiss and EU lawyers is due to take place in the Swiss capital, Bern, in the next few weeks to try to thrash out the terms of an agreement.
Calmy-Rey said she hoped that the legal and formal questions could be settled in the near future.
The Cohesion Fund is aimed at boosting the economies of less prosperous EU member states, especially the ten nations which joined last May.
Switzerland is obliged to support EU cohesion under a second set of bilateral treaties, which were signed in 2004.
swissinfo with agencies
Calmy-Rey also met the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana for talks on the Middle East and the Geneva Accord.
They also discuseed the situtations in Sudan and in Ukraine.
On Monday Swiss President Samuel Schmid discussed the contribution issue with Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker. Both men said they hoped for a solution.
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