Vienna pledges support for Swiss-EU deals

Calmy-Rey (left) won formal pledges from her Austrian counterpart Plassnik Keystone

Austria has assured Switzerland that it will try to speed up ratification of a second set of bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the European Union.

This content was published on January 23, 2006 - 18:04

Formal endorsement of the accords has been held up by a dispute over a Swiss funding package for the ten new EU member states.

The nine agreements, covering issues such as closer security and asylum cooperation as well as tax and customs deals, were signed by the EU and Switzerland in October 2004, but some of them are still waiting to be put into force.

During talks in Vienna on Monday with her Swiss counterpart, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Austrian foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik promised to speed up the process. Austria currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Calmy-Rey underlined that she was hoping all the accords would come into effect by the end of March, according to a Swiss foreign ministry spokesman.

Ratification has been blocked by several EU member states amid disagreement over a SFr1 billion ($790 million) payment by Switzerland to the ten new EU member states.

Calmy-Rey expressed interest in further cooperation between Switzerland and the EU, notably in the electricity market, health issues and the European satellite navigation system, Galileo.

The cabinet last week also called for a report on a free-trade accord on agriculture with the EU, a move welcomed by a European Commission spokesman in Brussels.

Conflict resolution

Calmy-Rey's visit to Austria, which also included a meeting with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, comes four days after Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger held talks with his Austrian counterpart.

In another development Calmy-Rey said she was confident that negotiations on the future status of the United Nations-administered province of Kosovo would continue despite the death on Saturday of the Kosovan president, Ibrahim Rugova.

At a news conference in Vienna she stressed that the issue must be resolved sooner rather than later to stabilise the situation in the volatile Balkan region.

Swiss armed forces have deployed 220 peacekeeping troops in Kosovo to provide support for the multinational force.

Switzerland has one of the largest Kosovan expatriate communities in western Europe with about 200,000 people who fled the conflict in the 1990s.

Calmy-Rey is expected to attend the funeral of President Rugova in Pristina on Thursday.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland and the EU have agreed two sets of bilateral treaties.
A first series of deals came into force in 2002.
In 2004 they signed a raft of nine additonal treaties governing tax, customs, asylum, police as well as trade, science and media.
Last year Swiss voters approved the Schengen/Dublin accords on security and asylum cooperation in a nationwide vote.
The Swiss rejected the European Economic Area treaty, a half-way house to full EU membership, in 1992.

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