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Parliament accepts EU package

The second set of bilateral accords aims for even closer ties with the EU Keystone

The Swiss parliament has approved a second set of bilateral accords with the European Union.

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted through the two remaining agreements on customs fraud and the taxation of EU residents’ savings income in Swiss banks.

It follows the approval of six other accords on Wednesday, including the controversial Schengen/Dublin agreement on closer security cooperation.

The move was widely expected and follows the endorsement of the package by the Senate.

Switzerland signed the Bilaterals II treaties in Luxembourg in October.

The customs fraud accord was approved by 71 to 29 votes, whereas the withholding tax agreement was overwhelming backed by 146 to 11 votes.

The accord on combating fraud allows Switzerland and the EU to jointly fight smuggling.

Under the tax accord, Switzerland will progressively introduce a withholding tax of 35 per cent on the savings income of EU residents – a deal that was reached after months of wrangling with Brussels.

However, the House of Representatives disagreed with the Senate and the government on one point. It decided that the cantons should not receive 2.5 per cent of the tax.

Nationwide vote

What happens next in the process depends on whether the Schengen/Dublin agreement is challenged in a nationwide vote.

On Wednesday the House of Representatives decided against holding an obligatory referendum on the accord.

The decision means that opponents, including the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, will have to collect 50,000 signatures to force a vote.

The People’s Party and small far-right groups, which claim Schengen threatens Switzerland’s sovereignty, said on Thursday that they would start collecting signatures before the end of the year.

In 2000 the Swiss electorate approved a first set of seven bilateral treaties with the EU, mainly on trade, labour and transport.

swissinfo with agencies

The Bilaterals II cover:
Security and asylum cooperation
Taxation of savings income, tax evasion
Customs fraud, smuggling
Processed agricultural products
Media, film production, distribution, training
Education, vocational training

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR