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Framework agreement  Minister downplays EU time pressure over accord

Foreign Minister Cassis speaking in the Senate

Cassis attended a three-hour debate in the Senate on Switzerland's relations with EU. Discussions are due to continue next week in parliament.

(Keystone/Anthony Anex)

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis says not to fret over a deadline set by the European Union for Switzerland to seek clarifications on a proposed accord on bilateral relations. 

It’s logical for the European Commission to want a clear answer from the Swiss government by early next week in order to decide on extending access for Swiss traders to the European stock exchange, Cassis told journalists following Wednesday’s major parliamentary debate about the country’s relations with the EU. 

An official letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in response to a Swiss government decision from last week, has prompted criticism by Switzerland’s main political parties. 

Cassis said the government would analyse the letter and that discussions were underway with Brussels about the next steps. 

Speaking during a debate in the Senate, Cassis said he did not exclude a quasi-instantaneous agreement on several open points with Brussels.

However, he acknowledged that it may take more than a week to summon the clarifications needed to approve the draft framework accord on Switzerland’s ties with its major trading partner.

Assurances 

Last week, the government announced it needed assurances from the EU notably on salary issues, state subsidies and unemployment benefits for EU labour. 

On Wednesday, the Senate formally demanded that the government seek additional negotiations with the EU, and it discussed a second instalment of CHF1.3 billion ($1.3 billion) to strengthen weaker economies, mainly in eastern European countries. 

Discussions in parliament about Switzerland’s relations with 28-nation bloc are due to continue next week.

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