Switzerland promises to help newest EU members with US$775 million

Switzerland will give the newest EU members a total of 1 billion Swiss francs (US$775 million, Ђ645 million) to help reduce economic and social disparities within Western Europe, the Swiss foreign minister said Monday. Hungary will receive around 130 million Swiss francs (US$100 million; Ђ83.8 million), with the funds set to be distributed from next year.

"This is Switzerland's contribution to diminishing the difference between the new and old members of the European Union, to diminish the economic and social differences," Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said after a meeting with her Hungarian counterpart, Ferenc Somogyi.

Switzerland, not an EU member, approved a referendum last month allowing citizens of Hungary and the nine other mostly former communist countries that joined the now 25-member bloc in 2004 to travel and work freely in Switzerland.

On photo: Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.


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