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Brussels, 23 January 2009

Visit to Liechtenstein: Commissioner Hübner set for talks with Prince Alois and Prime Minister Hasler

Danuta Hübner, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will meet Prime Minister Otmar Hasler and Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Monday 26 January, for talks focused on strengthened cooperation between the European Union, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Speaking ahead of her visit, Commissioner Hübner said: "The Commission considers Liechtenstein as a very constructive and reliable partner in the European Economic Area. We are also looking forward to Liechtenstein joining the Schengen area of border-free controls in the near future."

During her visit to the Principality, the Commissioner will also meet Rita Kieber-Beck, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Culture, Family and Equal Opportunity, Katja Gey, Minister, Office for Foreign Affairs, Jaroslaw Starzyk, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, and Ewald Ospelt, Mayor of Vaduz, as well as other government and business representatives.

The 1995 European Economic Area (EEA) agreement is the main framework for EU-Liechtenstein relations.

In 2004, together with Norway and Iceland, Liechtenstein launched the EEA Financial Mechanism which aims to contribute to a more equal Europe. It has made €1.3 billion of project funding available over five years to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe. Beneficiaries include NGOs, municipalities, businesses and other organisations in the new Member States, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Liechtenstein has contributed € 32.5 million (CHF 0.05 billion) towards the initiative and the Commission is negotiating the continuation of the scheme.

In the framework of EU Cohesion policy, Liechtenstein is a partner in the "Bodensee" cross-border programme, together with Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The programme, which has a total budget of €40 million for 2007-13, focuses notably on environmental protection and natural risk management (see MEMO/08/485). Among its beneficiaries are a network of public and private groups involved in nature protection and a scheme to protect white storks in wetlands (EU contribution: €421.310; Liechtenstein: €32.250).

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