The presidents of Switzerland, Germany and Austria say they have held constructive talks in the eastern Swiss city of St Gallen.This content was published on November 20, 2004 - 15:16
In the first such meeting of its kind, they discussed relations between Switzerland and the European Union, as well as domestic and international issues.
During the talks, the Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, explained the consequences of the extension of the accord between Bern and Brussels on the free movement of people, with a possible popular vote in Switzerland on the issue.
But the presidents of Germany and Austria, Horst Köhler and Heinz Fischer, did not want to be drawn on the possible consequences for the bilateral accords of a Swiss no vote.
Köhler told journalists afterwards that the meeting had served to develop long-term relations among the three countries.
Another such meeting has been pencilled in for next year, added Austria’s Fischer.
The three said they felt that economic growth in Europe could pick up, although Köhler argued that as a precondition European countries had to carry out “a vast modification of their structures”.
They also compared their respective policies on social services and mentioned a number of points of common ground on planned measures.
On the Iraq crisis, the three agreed on the need to support clearly the position of the United Nations, Deiss said.
The German president maintained that the current situation in the Middle East was “a chance for peace”, so long as Europeans reconsidered their role in the region and the United States lent a helping hand.
swissinfo with agencies
This was the first time that a trilateral meeting had been held at such a level.
But trilateral talks at ministerial level have long been a tradition.
Saturday’s meeting took place on the initiative of the Austrian president, Heinz Fischer.
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