The Swiss and European parliaments have issued a joint call for the parliaments of the 15 European Union member states to move quickly to ratify a series of bilateral free trade accords with Switzerland.
The statement was issued after a meeting on Thursday between a delegation of Swiss members of parliament and their European counterparts in Strasbourg.
They expressed their hope that the 15 national parliaments ratify the accords "without delay" in order to quicken the pace toward implementation. The statement mentions no date, but Swiss parliamentarians privately said they were still hopeful the target date of January 1, 2001 could still be met.
They urged their European colleagues to issue the joint statement after learning that the parliaments of certain countries were falling behind schedule.
One Swiss representative, Marcel Sandoz, said that despite the effort to speed up the process, Switzerland should be prepared for a delay of several months or even a year before the bilateral treaties come into force.
The Swiss people approved the treaties in a nationwide referendum on May 21.
The Swiss delegation also sought to gauge the strength of opposition in the EU to Switzerland's long-treasured banking secrecy policy. Sandoz said the Swiss tried to defend it and explain its importance to Switzerland, but that this was an issue that would have to be ironed out if Berne wanted to negotiate further bilateral deals with the EU.
He said he believed the EU was unlikely to make any further concessions to Switzerland, and so negotiations remained frought.
swissinfo with agencies
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