§ Mr. Spellar
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Switzerland's relations with the European Union.
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
Switzerland has long-standing close links with the European Union. Following the Swiss referendum rejecting European Economic Area membership, the European Union agreed in principle in November 1993 to start negotiations with Switzerland on a number of new bilateral agreements. The Swiss referendum vote in February in favour of a ban from 2004 on lorries transiting the Alps has so far prevented agreement on a mandate for road transport negotiations. But the May Foreign Affairs Council asked the Commission to bring forward mandates in other priority areas and to obtain clarification of the transit ban, so that transport mandates could be adopted. The United Kingdom has pressed for negotiations to open quickly.