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Deiss thanks Dutch for supporting bilateral accords

Deiss (right) thanked Balkenende for his country's support during bilateral negotiations with the EU

The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, has thanked the Dutch government for supporting his country’s efforts to forge closer bilateral ties with the European Union.

He was speaking at the end of a two-day trip to the Netherlands, which is due to take up the EU’s rotating presidency in July.

Deiss’s visit comes less than a week after Switzerland concluded negotiations on a second set of bilateral accords with the EU.

Speaking after a meeting with the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, Deiss expressed his gratitude to the Netherlands for its support during more than two years of talks.

Negotiations on nine dossiers wrapped up on May 19 with a compromise deal, which saw Brussels agreeing to guarantee Swiss banking secrecy in exchange for Bern’s cooperation in taxing EU residents’ savings.

The accords include closer cooperation on security and asylum, the fight against international smuggling and customs fraud.

Deiss revealed that Switzerland had contacted the Dutch government during the final phase of negotiations in a bid to ease concerns about the agreements – particularly about exemptions granted to the Swiss over the Schengen treaty on cross-border crime.

“Excellent relations”

Balkenende used the Swiss president’s visit to describe the state of relations between the two countries as “excellent”.

He also said he was “very pleased” that Switzerland and the EU had managed to reach agreement on the bilateral accords.

The Dutch premier added that the Netherlands would support Switzerland if and when it decided to pursue EU membership.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Balkenende and Deiss discussed European integration and the EU’s priorities for the second half of 2004.

The Netherlands takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency from Ireland on July 1.

Before meeting Balkenende, the Swiss president also met the heads of the two Dutch chambers of parliament.

He was officially welcomed on the first day of his trip by the country’s head of state, Queen Beatrix.

During his stay Deiss also paid a visit to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

swissinfo with agencies

Switzerland and the Netherlands:
Population: 7 million (CH), 16 million (NL).
Capital: Bern (CH), Amsterdam (NL).
Languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh (CH), Dutch (NL).
Currency: Swiss Franc (CH), Euro (NL).

The Netherlands is an important trading partner for Switzerland.

Exports to the Netherlands stood at SFr4.4 billion ($3.5 billion) in 2003 and imports totalled SFr6.5 billion.

One of the Netherlands’ most important exports is flowers – 85% of flowers grown there are sold abroad.

Switzerland imports 134 million flowers from the country each year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR