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Spotlight on relations French minister optimistic over EU pact

Ignazio Cassis, right, speaks with Jean-Yves Le Drian Europe-and Foreign Minister of France

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (right) speaks to French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian 

(Keystone)

There is still a good chance that a key agreement between Switzerland and the European Union – currently stalled – will work out, the French foreign minister has said, while on a visit to the Swiss capital Bern.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said he could still foresee an agreement by the end of the year, in comments to reporters after a meeting with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis on Friday.  

When asked about the accompanying measures to the agreement for wage and worker protection – a stumbling block – the French minister said there might be ways to ensure these measures would not been seen as discriminating, without elaborating further. Le Drian also underlined that the EU itself had introduced measures against wage and social dumping.

Paris visit

The French minister also confirmed that President Emmanuel Macron would receive the Swiss President, Alain Berset, in Parisexternal link on September 12 for a working meeting.

Cassis declined to answer whether this was part of a charm offensive by the Swiss. “If two parties are negotiating, they have to speak to each other,” is all he would say, according to the Swiss news agency SDA-ATS.

Both sides were keen to highlight the strong and friendly ties between Switzerland and France.

Cross-border workers

But there is one possible point of contention. The EU is pushing for cross-border workers to receive unemployment benefits from the country in which they last worked. This move, which would apply after three months of employment, has yet to be discussed by the European parliament.

Switzerland has around 320,000 cross-border workers, and it has already been estimated that the change could cost millions of Swiss francs. However, it has already been pointed out that the country is not obliged to follow this regulation change.

France would be in a better position, but Le Drian told reporters that it was a EU issue and not a bilateral one.

He was a little clearer in an interview published on Friday in the Neue Zürcher Zeitungexternal link and Le Tempsexternal link, in which he said that France supported the European Commission’s proposal to “make it more fair between the countries in which the cross-border workers live and where they work".

SDA-ATS/ilj

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