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Cabinet unveils new treaties

The latest negotiations will include cross-border crime Keystone

The cabinet has unveiled a second set of bilateral treaties, which it wants to negotiate with the European Union. It says seven new accords are ready to be put on the table, including the key issue of cooperation against cross-border crime.

Three other issues, including tax evasion and closer security cooperation, have been put on the backburner. A cabinet spokesman said in Bern on Thursday these issues would need further preparatory talks.

The mandates for the latest round of bilateral treaties, which still have to be presented to parliament’s foreign affairs committees, will be formally adopted in the second half of June.

This first batch also includes the so-called “left-overs” from the previous round of bilateral talks. These cover issues such as agricultural production, youth and education, media, statistics, the environment, and double taxation of pensions.

Michael Ambühl, head of the foreign ministry’s integration office, said the outstanding three treaties – covering tax evasion and security issues – all needed more preparation.

Under the proposals put forward by the Swiss government, negotiations on certain treaties could commence immediately, while others could be dealt with at a later date.

The precise timetable for negotiations will be discussed in Bern on May 31 during a meeting between the head of the government’s integration office and the EU’s director of foreign affairs, Percy Westerlund.

Meanwhile the government has pledged to continue to pursue its discussions with the EU, while it waits to formally adopt the treaties.

The Swiss finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, is due to meet EU officials on Tuesday to discuss tax evasion, while on Wednesday, the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, is off to Brussels to discuss the Schengen and Dublin agreements, which are chiefly concerned with border and asylum issues.

The Schengen agreement, which has been signed by a majority of EU member states, abolished border controls between its members. It also provides for common policies to fight crime, as well as a joint system of investigation and information.

The Dublin agreement is a separate, but related, treaty focused on a common visa policy, which will be needed once border controls have been abolished.

Both the Schengen and Dublin agreements, which came into force as separate inter-governmental treaties in 1991 and 1997 respectively, have since been incorporated into the EU’s Amsterdam treaty.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR