Switzerland awaits signal from EU on further treaties

Michael Ambühl (left) with Percy Westerlund in Bern Keystone

Differences have emerged between Switzerland and the European Union over a new round of negotiations on further bilateral treaties, according to the Swiss government representative, Michael Ambühl.

This content was published on June 1, 2001 - 13:34

Speaking after a meeting in Bern between EU and Swiss officials, Ambühl said the EU wanted to press ahead with negotiations on certain key issues, while Switzerland preferred to wait to discuss a fuller range of topics.

The head of the Swiss integration office said the EU delegation, led by Percy Westerlund, wanted to begin discussions as soon as possible on the issues of statistics, the environment, agricultural production and customs fraud.

He said that while Switzerland was ready to negotiate on these areas, it wanted assurances that six other topics were still on the agenda.

"We are now awaiting a clear signal from the EU that negotiations can be conducted on the 10 topics identified," Ambühl said.

Describing the talks as " positive and constructive", Ambühl said the two sides had made steady progress in certain areas, while further clarification was needed in others.

The second set of bilateral treaties, which was unveiled a fortnight ago, includes the key issues of tax evasion and cross-border security issues.

Also up for negotiation are 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.

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

The next meeting between the two delegations is scheduled to take place in either July or September, when the starting date for full-blown negotiations is expected to be agreed.

Swiss voters approved the first set of bilateral accords, covering issues such as access to labour markets and transport, in March 2000. Ratification has been delayed by several EU member states and the accords are not expected to come into force until the beginning of 2002.

swissinfo with agencies

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