The European Union has issued a positive, yet guarded, response after Swiss voters agreed at the weekend to both bring gun laws and the corporate tax regime into line with EU requirements.
On Sunday, voters gave the green light to a tightening of gun ownership rules that allowed Switzerland to remain in the Schengen free movement zone. They also gave the thumbs up to a revision of company tax following years of complaints from the EU that the old regime violated competition rules.
The EU Commission’s chief spokesman welcomed the double vote on Monday. But he warned that this did not mean the EU would soften its stance on a revision of the framework rules governing relations between Switzerland and the EU.
Both sides have been locked in difficult negotiations over how to continue with Switzerland’s one foot in, one foot out relationship with the EU. Having rejected full participation within the EU, Switzerland has negotiated several bilateral treaties, including Schengen, giving the Alpine state access to the EU market.
But the EU wants to codify this arrangement going forward. Both sides have tentatively agreed to a new set of framework rules, but the Swiss government has refused to sign off on it until it has put the deal to public consultation. The EU has set a deadline of the end of June to make a final decision.
“We are waiting, we hope that the Federal Council will approve the framework agreement that the EU and Swiss negotiators completed last November,” the EU spokesman said on Monday, adding that there is nothing else to negotiate. He said the agreement should be concluded by the end of the summer.
Should Switzerland fail to agree, the EU has indicated it would toughen its stance further. For example, the Swiss stock market would likely be denied continued equal access to the EU market, meaning it could not trade shares of EU companies.