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Swiss-EU relations Swiss media happy that government ‘finally’ has a position

Ignazio Cassis, Karin Keller-Sutter

The joy of clarity: Foreign Minister Cassis and Justice Minister Keller Sutter, Friday.

(Keystone / Peter Schneider)

A day after the Swiss government’s pronouncement on the framework deal with the European Union, Swiss media largely lauds a ‘clear’ and ‘realistic’ stance.

“The Federal Council finally has a plan,” writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. After months of directionless flailing, the position outlined on Friday demanding “more clarification” from Brussels on key points amounts to a positive step forward, the broadsheet reckons.

The tone is echoed across other Saturday newspapers: “Finally, the government has a position” (Blick); “The Federal Council has finally found the reset button” (Tamedia); “The government has made the best, and most realistic, decision possible” (La Liberté).

Following months of speculation (and a public consultation process), the government struck an conciliatory tone on Friday, stressing the importance of solid bilateral relations with the EU, while saying that several issues must nevertheless be solved before a draft framework deal is signed.

Salary and worker protection, state subsidies, and the Citizen’s Rights Directive (which includes the rules around freedom of movement within the European Economic area) are the three areas in need of further discussion, according to a government statementexternal link.

Stumbling blocks

However, if the announcement is a step in the right direction, showing a Switzerland that “knows what it wants and what it doesn’t” (Tribune de Genève), it is just that: a step.

“Nothing is yet accomplished, far from it,” writes La Liberté; the newspaper says it’s still unclear how wage and worker protection in Switzerland will be safeguarded in a way that satisfies European demands, while the question of immigration (the People’s Party is currently campaigning against freedom of movement) looms.

For the NZZ, however, the government’s three concerns are amenable to a solution. They are so marginal and so clearly formulated that they should be able to be added to the final framework deal, which aims to formalise the some 120 bilateral deals governing relations between Bern and Brussels.

+ The EU framework deal – what is it?

Rather, the NZZ says, the position of the rather uncompromising Swiss trade unions could be the stumbling block. “If they continue to stick to their red lines [notably on wage protection], the framework deal has no chance,” it writes.

For its part, the Trade Union Federation said on Friday that it was pleased the government had not capitulated on wage and worker protection; on Saturday, however, its president Pierre-Yves Maillard is quoted in several newspapers saying that a deal was still “very distant”.

“To be clear, we cannot support the text in its current form,” he said, adding that a renegotiation is inevitable – a scenario long rejected by the European Union, which has given Switzerland until July 2019 to make its decision on the deal.


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