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Positive outlook Foreign affairs minister feels ‘strong will’ to reach EU accord soon

Swiss foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis giving a speech at a podium

It's the first WEF attendance for Cassis, who took up the reins as Foreign Affairs Minister in late October 2017.

(Keystone)

Swiss foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis says he is optimistic regarding the conclusion of Swiss-European Union negotiations on a framework agreement for bilateral relations.

Cassis, who is participating for the first time in the World Economic Forumexternal link this week, said on Wednesday evening that he feels “strong will on both sides to reach an accord”.

“Ideally, it should be possible to conclude [negotiations] before Brexit [in 2019]. But this doesn’t mean that we must accept everything,” Cassis explained during a press conference.

It’s expected that the Federal Council could present on January 31 its official position on the direction to take following the negotiations.

Last weekend, Swiss President Alain Berset also commented on the struggle to finalise negotiations on bilateral Swiss-EU accords, albeit less optimistically in terms of time frame.

+ Swiss president: Switzerland-EU talks will take time

Cassis will meet on Thursday with Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, who going forward will be responsible for relations with Switzerland. The foreign affairs minister said he welcomes this first meeting, because until now, Switzerland has had no specific interlocutor in negotiations, which has complicated the process.

"It will be a question of getting to know each other … and we will see what role he wants and can play," he said.

The foreign affairs minister will also meet on Thursday with the EU Commissioner on Economic and Financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, as well as Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

French president calls for ‘better integration’

Also on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview on the WEF sidelines to Swiss Public Radio RTS, in which he said he hoped to see “greater integration of Switzerland” with the EU. With regard to Swiss access to the European market, Macron said, “there cannot be a system with ‘cherry-picking’".

SDA-ATS/cl

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