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Government to push ahead with talks on Schengen

The Schengen agreement would abolish border controls between Switzerland and the EU Keystone Archive

The government has confirmed that it intends to push ahead with negotiations on joining the European Union's Schengen and Dublin agreements on border and asylum issues.

In a statement on Wednesday, the justice ministry welcomed the results of preliminary talks with the EU and the “positive signals recently received from Brussels”.

It said that full participation in the Schengen and Dublin agreements was in the best interests of Switzerland and its internal security.

The Schengen agreement, which has been signed by a majority of EU member states, abolished border controls between adherents. 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.

It also stipulates which member state is responsible for deciding on asylum requests, making it impossible for asylum seekers to lodge second and third requests with other EU members.

The government, which is keen to build a closer relationship with the EU, said it hoped to hold more technical level discussions as early as next month, if the cantons give their agreement.

Switzerland would use the opportunity to try to clarify a number of outstanding issues, notably data protection, judicial cooperation and legal assistance.

For its part, the EU is eager to reach agreement with Switzerland on two main issues – tax evasion and cross-border crime. It’s concerned that Switzerland’s position outside the European security zone makes it attractive to organised crime.

As the justice ministry was making its assessment of discussions so far with the EU, the two sides were holding a first round of exploratory talks on tax evasion.

Switzerland and the EU have already agreed a package of seven bilateral treaties, covering issues ranging from transport to the free movement of people.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR