Letter: Swiss breath of fresh air

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Sir: I would like to add a few words to the mention in your paper (21 February) that Swiss voters approved a proposal banning foreign lorries from crossing the country by road from the year 2004.

The 'initiative for the protection of the alpine region' is intended to protect the delicate ecological balance of this unique region from the pollution generated by ever-increasing traffic. It is not specifically directed at foreign lorries but at all freight carried in transit across the Alps, which can easily be transported by rail through tunnels.

This measure, initiated by private citizens, was accepted by the voters against the strong advice of both parliament and government, which feared retaliation from neighbouring countries. This clear manifestation of the intention of the Swiss people to favour sound ecological policies, even against their short-term interest, should be supported by the EU and all those who want to do more than pay lip service to the protection of the environment.

Incidentally, this expression of the will of the people was made possible by the Swiss form of direct democracy which enables 50,000 citizens to put forward an initiative for the revision of the constitution - which is then put to the popular vote and, if accepted by a double majority of the people and the cantons, must be included in the constitution.

Yours faithfully,

M. E. SCHEURER

Cheadle Hulme,

Cheshire

21 February

The writer is a Swiss lawyer.

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