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Social Democrats say "yes" to Europe accords

Do the Swiss want to open their borders? Keystone

Delegates of Switzerland’s Social Democratic Party have voted in favour of key accords on closer ties with the European Union on security and asylum.

This content was published on March 19, 2005 - 14:46

It is the third of the country’s four parties represented in government to say "yes" to the Schengen and Dublin accords, in an effort to sway the electorate ahead of a possible nationwide vote in June.

There was not a single "no" vote and only four abstentions at the party meeting in La Chaux-de-Fonds on Saturday.

The Schengen accord includes measures to lift border controls and improve cross-border security while Dublin concerns asylum. In the EU, asylum seekers can file a request for asylum in one country only.

The Social Democrat foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, told delegates that Schengen would "improve our security without restricting our freedom of movement".

Calmy-Rey reiterated that the Dublin treaty permitted asylum policy to be coordinated Europe-wide. "It’s clear that a purely national approach is incapable of finding solutions to an international problem," she said.

Parliament approves

The accords, which form part of a second set of nine bilateral treaties with the EU, were approved by parliament last December.

However, the Swiss People’s Party, is expected to have collected enough signatures by the end of this month to call a nationwide vote on the accords. If successful, the electorate will go to the polls in June.

The rightwing party is arguing that the treaties are an attempt to push Switzerland closer to EU membership.

An opinion poll earlier this month showed 59 per cent of voters in favour of the two accords.

However, that was a ten per cent drop since a similar survey was made in October last year.

At the Social Democrat meeting, delegates also voted unanimously in favour of a law recognising same-sex partnerships. Swiss voters will decide on this issue in June.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Social Democrats, Radicals and Christian Democrats all support the Schengen/Dublin accords.

The rightwing People's Party is the only government party opposed, and is collecting signatures to call a nationwide vote on the issue.

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