The business world should get more involved in the debate over relations with the European Union, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has said. The outstanding framework agreement between the two was “just procedural issue”.
“The economy needs to stick its head above the parapet, and tell us what you want,” Cassis told a meeting of around 1,000 business representatives in Lausanne on Thursday.
Cassis highlighted the importance of putting relations between non-EU Switzerland and its biggest trading partner back on a good footing. It was important to iron out differences over the framework agreement for bilateral relations, he said.
The deal, which has been under negotiation since 2014, is aimed at reorganising selected bilateral agreements (in particular those agreements concerning single market access) so that they can be adapted to any potential legal developments in future.
The Federal Council (executive) has said that this agreement would only apply to five of the 120 patchwork bilateral accords between Switzerland and the EU: the free movement of persons, mutual recognition of standards, agricultural products, air transport, and ground transport.
If the agreement is not concluded in 2018, it would be pushed back to at least 2021, due to Swiss and European elections in 2019, Cassis continued. The tension over Brexit, which will see Britain exit the EU in March 2019 - and the transition period for this ending by December 31, 2020external link - is “poison for Switzerland”, he added.
A framework agreement is “just a procedural issue,” Cassis declared during his speech, which was held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL.
“There won’t be anything done that’s not in Switzerland’s interest,” he said, adding that the country would not just take on European law automatically.