Brussels, 27 February 2006
The European Union and Switzerland will sign today a Memorandum of Understanding setting up the arrangements by which Switzerland will finance projects in the new EU Member States for a total amount of one billion Swiss Francs (about €645 million) over a period of five years. The projects will start in 2006 and will cover support for public administration reforms, environment and infrastructure, promotion of the private sector, and human and social development. This financial contribution should been seen in the context of Switzerland benefiting from access to the enlarged Internal Market and to a number of EU programmes and activities, some of which will be ratified by the Council today. EU-Switzerland contacts will take another step forward when the Commission opens a delegation in Bern in the coming months.
Welcoming the signing of the memorandum, Commissioner for External relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said: “Switzerland is the EU’s closest neighbour and privileged partner. Together, we enjoy the benefits of our common internal market. Switzerland’s new commitment is a fitting contribution to the economic and social development in the enlarged EU. This contribution further deepens and strengthens the excellent relations which already exist between the EU and Switzerland. ”
The Memorandum will be signed by Ursula Plassnik, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, on the EU side, and by Micheline Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation, on the Swiss side.
The Swiss Federal Council will select the projects to be funded in agreement with the beneficiary States, taking account of their requests, needs and absorption capacity. The Federal Council and the Commission will communicate regularly on the implementation of the Swiss contribution, and the Commission will screen the draft projects for their compatibility with the Community’s objectives.
The financial contribution will be distributed among beneficiary countries according to the table below. A small amount has been earmarked for high priority projects.
Ratification of Agreements
The Council will ratify today a number of bilateral agreements with Switzerland concluded in 2004 and to enter into force at the beginning of April:
Switzerland is the EU’s closest neighbour, not only geographically, but also culturally and economically. It is its third trading partner after the US and China. Over 800.000 EU citizens live and work in Switzerland, and many more cross the borders or transit the country on a regular basis.
The EU and Switzerland have concluded many agreements in a large number of
sectors: free trade and free movement of persons, public procurement, land and
air transport, agriculture, research, etc. These agreements have given
Switzerland a privileged access to the enlarged Internal Market and to various
EU programmes and activities. Following the latest enlargement in 2004, the
Commission requested that Switzerland make a financial contribution similar to
the one made by the EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). At the
EU-Switzerland Summit on 19 May 2004 Switzerland pledged an amount of one
billion Swiss Francs.