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Smaller firms call for opening of Swiss economy

The heads of the association for SMEs want reforms Keystone Archive

The Swiss association of small- and medium-sized enterprises says it favours closer cooperation with the European Union and reforms of the Swiss market.

This content was published on February 10, 2005 - 15:37

SMEs - those with up to 250 employees - form the backbone of the national economy and account for well over two-thirds of the workforce in Switzerland.

“The existence of Switzerland depends, as a small open economy, on a free market and on not clashing with other countries, in particular the EU,” said Edi Engelberger, the association’s president, at a meeting in Bern on Thursday.

The association said that it supported Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU and would fight any moves to stop them coming into force.

The statement comes ahead of two nationwide votes scheduled later this year.

Rightwing opponents of the Schengen/Dublin treaty are collecting signatures in a bid to challenge the accord on closer cooperation on security and asylum at the ballot box.

Far-right and leftwing groups are also trying to force a nationwide poll on a parliamentary decision to extend access to the Swiss labour market to the ten new EU member states.

Reforms

SMEs, which represent 99.7 per cent of the country’s 300,000 companies, are also calling for reforms of the Swiss economy. This includes liberalising the electricity market and increasing competition.

But the association warned that the government should cut spending rather than raise or create new taxes.

It also stated its opposition to increased spending on social security and in particular to possible plans to increase child benefit.

“If parliament decides differently, we’ll launch a referendum [against it],” said the association’s director, Pierre Triponez.

But Travail Suisse, one of Switzerland’s largest trade unions, criticised the association for its comments, saying that it was ignoring the difficulties facing families at the cost of its own members.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are those that employ up to 250 people.
They account for 99.7% of the 307,000 companies in the Swiss private sector and provide jobs for 66.8% of the workforce.
87.9% of SMEs have fewer than ten employees.

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In brief

The association wants the government to cut spending rather than raise or create new taxes.

It is opposed to increased spending on social security and plans to increase child benefit.

It wants structural reforms, especially in regulated industries such as agriculture and electricity.

It wants to increase competition by revising the domestic market and cartel laws.

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