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EU issues dominate Calmy-Rey talks in Poland

Micheline Calmy-Rey told Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski Europe was more than just the EU Keystone

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is in Poland where she has been discussing Switzerland's financial contribution to the country.

This content was published on April 11, 2007 - 08:21

The money is part of Bern's SFr1 billion ($800 million) payment to the ten member states that joined the European Union in May 2004, an amount approved by Swiss voters last November.

On Tuesday - the first day of Calmy-Rey's two-day visit - the foreign minister discussed international and bilateral issues with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said.

The relations between Switzerland – which is not a member of the EU – and Brussels were also a major topic, Knuchel added.

Calmy-Rey also met Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga and Regional Development Minister Grazyna Gesicka to discuss how the cohesion fund for Poland, estimated at SFr500 million, would be used.

According to Knuchel, Switzerland intends to start taking action by the end of the year.

Calmy-Rey told Swiss radio she wanted the money to go to Poland's poorest regions for reasons of efficiency and ensuring good visibility in Switzerland.

Funding would also go towards ensuring security at borders as well as environmental protection projects, she added.

The Swiss parliament still has to decide where the money should come from.

For its part, Poland expressed gratitude that Switzerland had opened up its work market to its workers.

Kosovo position

The question of Kosovo – Calmy-Rey has said the breakaway province should be independent from Serbia – was also debated.

"Poland is very interested by the Swiss position," said Knuchel, without giving further details.

The talks with Kaczynski also touched on the tax spat between Bern and Brussels. The EU maintains that low taxes for holding companies offered by some cantons violate a free trade agreement. Switzerland has denied this and the dispute is ongoing.

Also on Tuesday Calmy-Rey met the Polish president's twin brother Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

During an event attended by representatives from the political, economic and scientific worlds, the Swiss president spoke of Switzerland's relations with the EU.

Switzerland and Europe

"Europe is not just the EU," she said, adding that Switzerland was constantly improving its relations with the EU and that bilateral accords were the best way for an open and cooperative relationship between the two sides.

In 2006 the Swiss government made it clear it would continue its purely bilateral stance towards the EU, putting any idea of accession on hold.

However on Tuesday Switzerland's 26 cantons, which have a big say in Swiss daily life, for example regulating educational and police matters, said they did not rule out joining in the long-term.

Calmy-Rey will continue her visit to Poland – part of an extended trip to eastern Europe – on Wednesday. She has already visited Estonia and will travel to Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Since the 1990s the Swiss parliament approved credits of SFr3.5 billion for more than 1,000 projects in 23 countries in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In 1998 the focus of the traditional aid to eastern Europe, provided jointly by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), shifted from central Europe to the Balkans the central Asian republics.

The main purpose of the aid to eastern Europe is to help the former Communist states adapt to market economies and develop democratic structures.

The Swiss government says the SFr1 billion payment for the ten new EU member states is its contribution towards reducing inequalities in the enlarged EU.

Non-EU member Switzerland has concluded 16 bilateral treaties with Brussels covering trade, labour, transport, taxation, immigration and customs.

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Key facts

Swiss eastern Europe aid to Poland (since 1990s): SFr154 million.
Swiss EU cohesion contribution to Poland: SFr489 million.
Swiss exports to Poland 2005: SFr1.4 billion; 1989: SFr334 million
Swiss imports from Poland 2005: SFr808 million; 1989: SFr119 million
Population of Poland: 38.6 million; Switzerland: 7.5 million

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