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The seven EU accords: what do they mean?

Agricultural trade - one the seven accords with the EU.

(Keystone)

The seven accords voted upon in Switzerland are designed to move the country closer to the 15-nation European Union than it has ever been before. But what do they cover?

The Swiss-EU accords cover economic and technical cooperation, public procurement, mutual acceptance of diplomas and licences, agricultural trade, aviation issues, road and rail traffic and the free movement of people.

The seven treaties comprise:

Overland transport

Under the new regulations, the weight limit for trucks crossing Switzerland will be raised from the current 28 tonnes to 34 tonnes in 2001 and 40 tonnes in 2005. At the same time, a new levy for heavy goods trucks will be introduced, with the long-term aim of encouraging the use of rail for freight transport.

Free movement of people

Switzerland and the European Union agree to open up their labour markets over a trial period of seven years, at the end of which Switzerland will be free to decide whether to continue with the accord. Complete freedom of movement in Switzerland for EU citizens will be phased in over 12 years. The accord includes measures to prevent an influx of "cheap" labour.

Agriculture

Duties for certain products will be lowered or even abolished. The EU market will be open to products in which Switzerland is competitive, such as cheese, fruit and vegetables. Switzerland has made concessions on imports of fruit and vegetables out of season and of products not produced in Switzerland. Duties will be maintained in more sensitive areas, such as grains, meat and milk.

Aviation

Swiss airlines will gradually be given greater access to Europe's deregulated market, allowing a Swiss airline, for example, to pick up passengers or freight in Paris on a Zurich-Paris-Madrid flight. EU airlines would have similar rights in Switzerland. A Swiss airline would also be able to purchase a majority shareholding in an EU carrier, whithout it losing its EU status.

Research

This accord gives Swiss research institutes, universities and companies the possibility of participating fully in all scientific projects within the EU's Framework Research Programme. Swiss research will be able to launch and lead projects, provided they have an EU partner. Previously they could only participate. However, Swiss students will still have to pay the higher fees of oversees students when it comes to studying in the EU.

Public procurement

Under the bilateral accord, it is easier for Swiss companies to bid for contracts from public sector authorities in the EU, and vice versa. Contracts exceeding a certain value must be opened for tenders, and all bidders must be treated equally. The process must be transparent and an appeals process must be introduced. Currently, Swiss bids for contracts in the EU must be 3 per cent cheaper than those from EU companies, and must create 50 per cent of the value added within the EU.

Technical barriers to trade

"Technical barriers" are specifications and standards which differ from country to country and make it harder to sell a product or service across borders. Under the accord, Switzerland and the EU agree to mutually recognise quality standard tests, certificates and authorisations for most products originating in Switzerland or the EU. Duplicating tests - one for the Swiss market, one for the EU - will largely become a thing of the past.

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