Switzerland's bilateral treaties with EU delayed

EU member states are taking their time in approving the accords with Switzerland Keystone

The bilateral treaties that Switzerland has negotiated with the European Union will not come into effect as scheduled in January 2001.

This content was published on August 31, 2000 - 11:44

A spokesman for Switzerland's European integration bureau told German-language Swiss radio (DRS) on Thursday the treaties would not be implemented before next spring at the earliest.

The seven mainly commercial accords, covering issues such as transport, the free movement of people and research, had to be ratified by the parliaments of all 15 EU member states this year if they were to come into effect in January.

Several countries, including France, have told Berne their parliaments will not consider the issue before their winter sessions, reported DRS.

The Swiss people gave the treaties the go-ahead in a referendum in May, and since then government ministers have been rallying support for early ratification in European capitals.

The delay could cause further problems between Berne and Brussels. Switzerland is intending to introduce a heavy vehicles road tax for EU trucks transiting the country in January, as part of the accords.

Switzerland will not now be able to take part in European research programmes until 2002, said DRS.

There has been no comment so far from the Swiss authorities.

However, the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has already started discussions with EU leaders on the next set of treaties to be discussed. It is not known how the delay in introducing the bilateral accords will affect these negotiations.

by Ron Popper

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