EU official wants revamped relations with Switzerland

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Switzerland and the European Union must forge a new framework for bilateral relations, a senior European official suggested Friday, judging the current one outdated.

"The traditional bilateral route has done its time. The recipes of the past are out of date," European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding said in remarks at the University of Lausanne.

With nearly 120 agreements signed between Bern and Brussels, the traditional system has become "complex, opaque and difficult to manage", Reding said.

EU officials have expressed frustration with Switzerland's quest to expand on separate agreements such as free movement of labour, education, border policing and transport, which give it similar economic advantages to member states without assuming the political commitment of membership and joint decision-making.

In July, the EU and Switzerland announced their wish to revisit and simplify ties while respecting Bern's refusal to join the 27-member bloc.

Fiercely independent Swiss voters have repeatedly rejected closer political relations and EU membership, although the issue is highly divisive.

In remarks to a Swiss newspaper last month, former EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner urged Switzerland to join the European bloc within the next decade.

© 2010 AFP

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