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Bilateral relations Swiss president: Switzerland-EU talks will take time

Swiss President Alain Berset stands between two Swiss flags

Alain Berset took over the rotating Swiss presidency on January 1, 2018

(Keystone)

Negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union on a framework agreement for bilateral relations are likely to take time, as the government is still discussing the position it will take in talks with the EU, Swiss President Alain Berset said on Sunday.

Berset, speaking to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, also pointed out that Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis came to office in late October last year. He said Cassis would present the government with proposals “soon” on Swiss-EU policy. 

This view of a timeframe contrasts with that of the EU, which wants a framework agreement quickly. But Berset told the German-language newspaper that Switzerland would not be “pressured”. 

+ Read more about Switzerland’s relations with the EU

Asked about the fact that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron will apparently not be meeting him at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Berset said that was not serious because, “Swiss policy on the European Union is not made in Davos”. Official meetings only made sense if there was something new to discuss, he continued, saying that “Jean-Claude Juncker and I talk whenever it is necessary.” 

Berset is however scheduled for talks in Davos with US President Donald Trump, which he said were likely to cover bilateral relations, including financial and tax issues. When asked if, in response to Trump’s “America First” policy, he would be defending “Switzerland first”, Berset replied that “of course”, he would. 

“Defending Swiss interests is a priority for me,” he told the paper. “That also includes commitment to international organisations like the UN and to international norms, such as on human rights.”

swissinfo.ch and agencies/jc

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