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EU integration tops Swiss president’s talks in Finland

Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss Thursday met Finland’s head of state Martti Ahtisaari in Helsinki for talks dominated by the key issues of European integration and regional security policy.

This content was published on September 30, 1999 - 14:21

Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss Thursday met Finland’s head of state Martti Ahtisaari in Helsinki for talks dominated by the key issues of European integration and regional security policy.

The talks on European integration take on added significance for Switzerland as Finland holds the rotating presidency of the EU and because the Swiss parliament is scheduled to ratify comprehensive bilateral accords with the EU on October 8.

The accords include land and rail transport, mutual acceptance of technical standards, agricultural agreements and the free movement of people. While the Swiss parliament has already come out in favour of the accords, right-wing groups have said they will force a national vote on the matter.

Some critics of the accords say ratification will lead to a loss of Swiss sovereignty and do away with Swiss neutrality, which they say has served Switzerland well for decades.

Dreifuss was therefore interested to hear about Finland’s policy of maintaining its own armed neutrality policy, even though it is a member of the EU and, like Switzerland, takes part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.

Ahtisaari and Dreifuss said after the talks they hoped that the accords could be ratified by Switzerland and all 15 EU member states as quickly as possible.

Finland has also insisted on pursuing its own foreign policy with regard to its neighbour Russia. Relations between the two countries have often been very tense, particularly during the Cold War.

Apart from her talks with high-ranking political figures in Helsinki, Dreifuss was also meeting Switzerland’s expatriate community and representatives of the Swiss-Finnish Chamber of Commerce.



From staff and wire reports.

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