EU transport deal approved by Swiss voters

Agreement on lorry weights, tolls, ratified in national referendum on closer association with EU

Swiss voters yesterday approved by a larger than expected margin a series of seven bilateral agreements with the EU that will strengthen the two sides' commercial relations. They include a deal on transport that threatened to derail the whole package at times during its negotiation between 1996 and 1998 (ENDS Daily 2 December 1998).

Under the terrestrial transport agreement, Switzerland is to progressively abandon a ban on heavy goods vehicles over 28 tonnes, allowing unlimited access to lorries up to 34 tonnes from 2001 and quotas for 40-tonne vehicles from this year, leading to free access by 2005.

In return, the EU is allowing Switzerland to continue charging goods vehicles for using transalpine routes. The exact level of permitted charges was hotly disputed, partly because of Austrian fears that continued high Swiss tolls would simply push transalpine commercial traffic onto its roads. Austria currently faces possible condemnation in the European Court of Justice for the level of tolls it charges for using the Brenner Alpine route (ENDS Daily 25 February).

Follow Up:
Swiss European integration office, (switch to French, German or Italian for results of the vote). See also the text of the EU-Swiss terrestrial transport agreement.

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