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Swiss seek better ties with EU and neighbours

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey says Switzerland must improve bilateral relations with its neighbours and the European Union in 2011.

Calmy-Rey, who holds the rotating post of Swiss president and is also foreign minister, told reporters in Geneva that Switzerland had “serious” bilateral fiscal issues with Italy and problems over the EuroAirport in Basel and Zurich airport.

She said there was a mutual desire with the EU to deepen relations.

“The 120 bilateral accords with the EU are a heavy burden to manage and an institutional challenge. The government wishes to continue on the bilateral course but we want to boost relations,” she told a press conference on Friday.

One of the big lessons from last year’s diplomatic crisis with Libya was that it was very hard for Switzerland to solve a serious crisis like that on its own, she commented.

“We needed help from other countries, and in particular the EU,” she noted.

Another lesson for her presidency was that for a state to affirm itself internationally and defend its actions effectively, it has to talk with a single voice, she said, but this was difficult in a federal state like Switzerland.

Calmy-Rey added that she did not exclude new pressure on banking secrecy in 2011.

The Swiss president said she would be travelling to Germany next week to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and would hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos at the end of January. She also planned to travel to South Africa at the end of February as a member of a special United Nations panel on global sustainability.

It is the second time that Calmy-Rey has held Switzerland’s largely ceremonial presidency, which rotates annually among the seven cabinet members.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR