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Switzerland provides Slovakia with assistance worth CHF67 million

SWITZERLAND is to provide Slovakia with bilateral aid allocation valued at CHF67 million (approximately €43.3 million), Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said on November 29 after a meeting with her Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan in Bratislava.

Slovakia will be able to draw the money as of the end of 2006. This amount is a portion of the Swiss aid allocation to the EU10 (new members) valued at CHF1 billion, news wire TASR wrote.

"I hope our contribution will improve the already good relations between Slovakia and Switzerland," Calmy-Rey told journalists.

Switzerland, home to a large Slovak emigre population living mostly around Zurich, and the EU have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the individual countries on the specific use of the money have yet to be signed.

The aid allocation is complicated by the attitude of three EU15 (pre-2004) members - Greece, Portugal and Spain - that want to access part of the money themselves, as relatively poor countries.

However, Calmy-Rey on Tuesday clearly stated that the money is allocated only for the 10 new member states.

"We don't understand why an independent state's decision is being questioned," Kukan said of the three countries that joined the EU in the 1980s.

Both Kukan and Calmy-Rey appreciated good mutual relations and called for more intensive economic co-operation, especially in terms of Swiss investments in Slovakia.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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