• Switzerland's news in English

Talks with EU won't be easy - Calmy-Rey

Meritxell Mir · 12 Oct 2011, 10:34

Published: 12 Oct 2011 11:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Oct 2011 10:34 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Switzerland's President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Monday defended Swiss interests when she became the first ever Swiss cabinet minister to attend a foreign policy committee hearing in Brussels.

There were three main items on the agenda at the EU parliament's foreign policy session: bilateral relations, tax agreements between Germany and Switzerland, and dictators' assets.

In her opening speech to the committee, Calmy-Rey underlined Switzerland’s determination to continue down the bilateral route with the European Union.

Members of the Foreign Policy Commission took the opportunity to check how far the country is willing to go in its collaboration with the EU on tax matters. The Lisbon Treaty has given the European Parliament greater competence in foreign policy and in relations with non-EU countries.

Answering a question about the treaties between Berlin and Bern, Calmy-Rey explained that Switzerland's adoption of a withholding tax meant it was following a “clean money” strategy, adding that the country was open to negotiating similar treaties with other countries. Greece had shown an interest, the head of the foreign ministry said, though she hinted that no agreement could take place any time soon.

In response to EU accusations that many rich Greeks stashed their money in Swiss banks to avoid paying tax, the top Swiss diplomat said Switzerland had no interest in holding money for people trying to get around the taxman.

Calmy-Rey also rejected reports that €200 billion had flowed from Greece to Switzerland. “People overestimate what is kept in Swiss banks and vaults,” she said.

As for bilateral relations with the EU, Calmy-Rey said the more than 120 agreements already in place were testimony to the strength of Switzerland's ties with the EU. Still, Calmy-Rey recognized that several issues remained partly unresolved in areas such as electricity, agriculture, and health policies.

The Swiss president agreed it would be possible to further streamline relations between the EU and Switzerland, though she foresaw that “the negotiations won’t be easy.”

Calmy-Rey also pointed out Switzerland’s “pioneering” role in blocking the assets of dictatorial governments. Parliamentarians acknowledged Bern’s efforts to return illicit funds to the citizens of dictatorships.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP file picture

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf, marking one of the first such rulings in Switzerland, media reported Sunday.

Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available