Swiss citizens could need US visas if American demand is met, foreign affairs committee confirms
BERN, SWITZERLAND – The foreign affairs committee of the upper house of Parliament said late Tuesday 10 January that it must be informed if the Federal Council intends to sign an agreement with the US to provide access to police files in the American fight against major crime. It notes that Switzerland, “in the light of recent developments”, must look more closely at the existing crime reduction Operative Working Arrangement II, signed by the two in 2006, to see if from a Swiss legal point of view it needs revision.
The committee did not specify what it mean by recent developments, which could be a reference to US investigations of Swiss banks and reported but unconfirmed threats to indict a Swiss bank, the country’s oldest private bank Wegelin, that have appeared in US media.
Wegelin Tuesday issued a statement that raised the question of the legality of such a move, without confirming that it is being targed by the US Justice Department.
Switzerland has participated since 1986 in the US visa waiver programme, which has given Swiss citizens the right to remain in the US for 90 days without first asking for a visa. The US now envisages, says the commission, signing an agreement with Switzerland as part of the former’s anti-terrorism and major crime fight and it is possible that the US will insist that Swiss citizens need visas to enter the US if Switzerland refuses.
The commission’s remarks appear to confirm Swiss media reports in early December that the US was pressuring Switzerland to sign a “Preventing and Combating Serious Crime” (PCSC) agreement, although the embassy in Bern told GenevaLunch that there is no deadline, but rather ongoing negotiations.