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Difficult agreements Swiss-EU talks reaching conclusion, says minister

ignazio cassis

A pact with the EU has been a top political sticking point for Foreign Affairs Minister Cassis

(©KEYSTONE/ PETER SCHNEIDER)

According to Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis, a long-awaited deal on Switzerland’s economic ties with the EU is in final stages, but “there is no more room for negotiation” on certain sticking points. 

In an interview with newspapers from the Tamedia group, Cassis also cast doubt on whether the Swiss would immediately sign on to a United Nations migration pact. 

“We are actually at the end of our negotiations, but that doesn’t mean a deal with the EU is a sure thing,” the foreign affairs minister said of the framework agreement that the European Union has wanted for a decade. It would complement the roughly 120 bilateral accords already in place between the 28-nation bloc and Switzerland, making it easier for the Swiss to adapt to changes in the European single market and providing a better negotiating platform. 

“Depending on how the government sees the quality of the [resulting agreement], it will be accepted or not,” Cassis said. “Both outcomes have their price. I stand by the fact that a good agreement is more important than a rushed one.”

Tough sell 

Cassis said that room for negation has run out on points related to the free movement of people agreement with the EU, such as labour market measures meant to prevent the undercutting of wages and working conditions in Switzerland. He said political decisions would be necessary to overcome the impasse. 

In mid-October, the European Commission indicated that talks had stalled over the framework agreement. The 28-nation bloc has threatened to hamper access to the EU stock markets for Swiss banks if Switzerland continues to block progress towards an accord. Failure to strike a deal would also stop any further Swiss access to the EU’s single market.   

The framework agreement has been a tough sell for the Swiss government, with the country’s largest political party and nearly half of Swiss opposed to it. 

Migration pact 

Cassis also said it would be “no catastrophe” if Switzerland did not immediately sign on to a United Nations migration accord, expected to be agreed at a conference in Moroccoexternal link in December. A Swiss senate committee advised on Friday that Switzerland not sign on to the pact before the government had provided more information about whether it would interfere with sovereign law.

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