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Swiss politicians forge links with US Congress

Peter Briner heads up the Swiss-US parliamentary association

(swissinfo.ch)

Swiss parliamentarian, Peter Briner, has wrapped up a groundbreaking trip to the United States aimed at strengthening ties between politicians.

One direct result of his visit was a decision for a Swiss delegation to travel to the US next year to meet a group of its American counterparts.

Briner, president of the Swiss-US parliamentary association, spent three days in Washington meeting US Congressmen.

"We want to get in touch with members of Congress who have links to and an interest in Switzerland," the Swiss senator told swissinfo.

The aim of his visit was to encourage American politicians to set up a similar group to provide a forum for discussing a range of common interests.

Holocaust-era accounts

Briner said the scandal surrounding dormant Swiss bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims had shown that there had to be greater understanding between the two countries and better ways of sharing information.

"There's certainly no lack of subjects up for discussion," he said.

For the Swiss group these include finding out more about how the American social security and pensions schemes work, and how the US government supports scientific research.

It also wants to look into the political discussions in both countries surrounding terrorism and money laundering and would like to compare policy on human rights issues, disarmament and humanitarian aid.

Political aides

Briner is keen to investigate the different working conditions of Swiss and US politicians. He said a US Congressmen, for example, could count on a staff of almost 20, whereas in Switzerland discussions on the appointment of permanent staff were only in the initial phase.

There will be another chance for US Congressmen interested in Switzerland to meet Briner's group in September, when a number of them are expected to attend an international conference on federalism in St Gallen.

Briner hopes that the two sides will hold their first formal meeting by February 2003 - the date of the next planned trip to the US.

swissinfo


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