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European Union courting Switzerland

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The European Union is increasing its diplomatic relations with Switzerland by opening a permanent delegation in the neutral alpine country. The EU has sent a new ambassador, Michael Reiterer, to Bern. His mission is to improve relations between the EU and Switzerland on topics such as immigration, trade, and education.

Switzerland has a long history of neutrality. While the nation submitted an application to join the EU in 1992, voters in Switzerland have rejected a motion to join the bloc in 2001. The government, while favoring an eventual membership, says that currently the time is not right.

Switzerland's President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said she hoped the new delegation would improve mutual understanding between the 27-member bloc and her country.

In the interim, the office will seek to continue the economic cooperation between Bern and Brussels as well as focus on implementing the numerous agreements designed to harmonize rules on trade, customs and immigration.

It should also be noted that the European Union will have to make some changes in its own treaties before any nation can join the current bloc. The number of nations is restricted to 27, until a new constitutional treaty is signed or amendments are made to existing treaties.


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