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Social benefit controversy France to pay back millions for welfare payments

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and his French counterpart Jean-Yves le Drian

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis discussed the welfare repayment issue with his French counterpart Jean-Yves le Drian in Paris on December 19, 2017


A long-running controversy between France and Switzerland over welfare payments made to their respective citizens appears to have been settled. France will pay Switzerland CHF41.5 million ($42.7 million) next year, following an agreement, it has been confirmed. 

Geneva State Councillor Mauro Poggia, who negotiated with France on behalf of the Swiss cantons, confirmed the deal to Swiss public radio, SRFexternal link, on Friday. It was also confirmed by the Swiss foreign ministry. Most of the money will go to the cantons, in particular to Vaud and Geneva. 

The conclusion of the negotiations followed last year’s termination of a 90-year agreement on welfare payments between the two countries.

The agreement states that France should reimburse certain social security contributions to Switzerland if French nationals need assistance in Switzerland, and vice-versa. Previously, France had argued that the free movement of persons accord between the European Union and Switzerland in force since 2002 did not provide for such repayments. 

According to SRF, Switzerland still owes Paris CHF3.5 million for welfare payments made to Swiss living in France, but the French authorities have not sent Switzerland an invoice for over 20 years. 

In 2016, some 126,000 French citizens were permanent residents in Switzerland and 200,000 Swiss were living permanently in France.

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