Nine regions or provinces in countries bordering Switzerland have called on the European Union to show understanding and allow the Swiss more time to agree a framework deal.
In a joint letter to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on September 2, they expressed concern that recent developments were a cause for concern, particularly the Swiss-EU stock exchange spat which could create a “downward spiral”, according to media reports on Wednesday. The letter, of which the Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS obtained a copy, was also sent to Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen.
The regional leaders deem the framework deal negotiated between the European Union and Switzerland to be just and fair but fear the consequences for neighbouring regions if it were to be rejected in a Swiss popular vote. They say that Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy means it needs the time to bring all social groups on board.
Signatories of the letter include the German states of Baden Württemberg, which initiated it, and Bavaria; three neighbouring regions of France (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-France-Comté and Grand Est); two in Austria (Tyrol and Vorarlberg) and two in Italy (Val d'Aosta and Bolzano-Alto Adige).
Since 2014, Bern and Brussels have been trying to formalise long-term ties in an institutional framework agreement. Relations are presently covered by around 120 separate bilateral accords negotiated since a 1992 referendum in the Alpine state rejected joining the European Economic Area. The proposed overarching agreement covers five of the larger bilateral deals: free movement of people, mutual recognition of industrial standards, agricultural products, air transport, and land transport.
But with Swiss parliamentary elections due in October, the deal has become entangled in domestic politics, with opposition from both the left and right.