M
ay 31, 2005
Animal rights and spending cuts high on agenda
The three-week summer session of the Swiss parliament is focusing on public-spending cuts and amendments to the animal welfare law.

The Senate will also discuss the future of swissinfo and respond to a proposal demanding the maintenance of the nine-language news platform. The public spending cuts programme has already been discussed by the Senate in the spring session and is set to reduce the strain on the federal budget by around SFr2 billion ($1.6 billion) by 2008.

Total federal spending in 2004 reached SFr50.29 billion, resulting in a further - but already much reduced - deficit of about SFr1.6 billion. Total government debt was nearly SFr127 billion, or just under 29 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The House of Representatives, the other parliamentary chamber, has reserved three meetings in the first week of the session to deal with the spending cuts.The main cuts are expected in education and research, road transport as well as development aid.

The Senate missed the government's savings target for 2006-2008 by around SFr200 million and only half-heartedly agreed to the bill in face of opposition from Left and Right. The House is expected to tighten the screws again and exceed the target by SFr300 million.
In December 2003 parliament approved a first package of spending cuts worth more than SFr3 billion.

Animal protection The House is also resuming debate on animal rights in Switzerland.
The government wants to improve the implementation of the animal welfare law without changing the level of protection.
However, the Senate tweaked the law in a few places in order to challenge a people's initiative launched by the country's largest animal welfare group.
Animal-rights activists hope that the House of Representatives will go even further and adopt an import ban on dog and cat skins.
The people's initiative will come to nationwide vote at a later stage. But animal-rights supporters have hinted that they could withdraw their initiative, if parliamentary amendments go considerably beyond the government draft.
GMO and nature parks
Also on the agenda are a people's initiative for a five-year moratorium on genetic engineering in farming as well as a proposal to create more nature parks in Switzerland.
Other issues to be discussed during the session are the revised and reduced arms procurement programme, which was thrown out of the last parliamentary session in a row over the planned acquisition of two transport aircraft.
Both chambers will discuss a report on Swiss aviation policy.

Future of swissinfo
The Senate is set to give a decision on June 9 on a proposal put forward by Filippo Lombardi.
The Christian Democrat parliamentarian is calling on the government to throw out plans to dismantle swissinfo.
He demands that the nine-language multimedia news platform remains in its present state and that the government confirms its intention of co-financing it.
The announcement to make cutbacks at swissinfo was made in March by the board of directors at the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), the parent company of swissinfo.
Before being submitted to the Senate, the proposal is waiting for a government response, due on Friday.

swissinfo with agencies