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Swiss businesses against EU membership

Concluding more bilateral accords with the EU is economiesuisse's preferred approach Keystone

The Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, says Switzerland should not join the European Union, as this would slow down the economy.

This content was published on February 28, 2006 - 14:37

It stressed its support for strengthening bilateral relations, while adding that signing up to the 25-member club would complicate the forging of national economic and social policy.

A barrage of complications in the economic and political arenas would negate any efficiency gains to be had through membership, the federation said at a news conference on Tuesday.

National finance and fiscal policy would need to be overhauled, resulting in negative effects on the Swiss currency.

The labour market would also suffer from the new conditions imposed on it, if Bern were to join, it added.

The federation said that it was aware that the bilateral route was not without its pitfalls but that was, nevertheless, the right way forward.

It considered the bilateral approach a flexible one, enabling a practical cooperation between Bern and Brussels.

The approach had already borne fruit, giving Switzerland unfettered access to the EU internal market.

Think global

Economiesuisse spokesman Gregor Kündig told swissinfo that Swiss firms had a more global outlook than counterparts in neighbouring countries.

"Swiss business interests have always been more globally oriented than other European countries. I noticed when working for a Swiss company with a subsidiary in Germany, that the Swiss looked worldwide while the Germans concentrated on Europe," Kündig said.

Kündig does not believe, however, Switzerland can be easily pressured into joining the EU.

"Swiss direct democracy plays an important part in the whole question. How many countries would have accepted the single currency if they had had direct democracy?"

The federation stressed that it was up to Bern to introduce reform on a national level to enable Swiss businesses to become more competitive.

Closer ties

Economiesuisse's support for closer ties with the EU - but not full-blown membership - is not new and was displayed during last year's vote on extending a labour accord to include the EU's newest member states.

When the majority of Swiss voters cast their ballots in favour of the extension, the business federation hailed the result as a good one for the Swiss economy.

The association's stance comes a day after Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey signed a memorandum of understanding sealing Bern's financial contribution to the EU's newest member states.

On the same day, the EU's Council of Ministers ratified four bilateral accords with Switzerland, concerning the extension of the free movement of people to the new EU states, the MEDIA agreement on film promotion and another on the environment.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner.

Over 800,000 EU citizens live and work in Switzerland, and many more cross the borders or travel through the country on a regular basis.

Relations with the EU are defined by two packages of bilateral treaties, governing free trade, labour relations and taxation, among other issues.

Before the summer, the government plans to publish a report on relations between Switzerland and the EU.

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