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Swiss business leaders hail approval of EU accords

The country's main business lobby, the Swiss Trade and Industry Association, says it was surprised by the size of the yes vote. Andres Leuenberger, president of the association, described the result as a happy day for the economy.

Leuenberger said the seven accords effectively settled 80 per cent of Swiss industry's needs in relation to Europe. It would also be easier for Swiss people to work in EU countries, he said.

He added that the result was an important recognition of Switzerland as a labour and research centre. He said the accords would also be particularly useful to companies exporting to the EU.

The managing director of the association, Rudolf Ramsauer said that the accords would have to be implemented before there could be any further discussion of Switzerland joining the European Union.

Ramsauer said Switzerland should keep its "options open".

The Swiss Association for small and medium-sized businesses said it expected the accords to lead to further economic stability and growth. The federation said the accords had placed the relationship between Switzerland and the EU on a solid basis for the future.

The Trade Union Federation also cheered the vote saying it showed that the Swiss were confident that the accords would not lead to wage dumping.

The cost of the agreements is put at SFr800 million. But business leaders predict that the Swiss economy will grow by an additional two per cent over the next ten years, or some SFr8 billion.

It is difficult to say how the markets will react. Supporters of the bilateral accords argue that the "yes" vote will give a positive sign because there will be a perception that Switzerland wants to integrate more in Europe.

swissinfo with agencies

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