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Bern and Brussels Swiss rightwing takes aim at EU accords

Christoph Blocher speaks at a press conference in Bern on Friday

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s rightwing strongman Christoph Blocher launched a campaign on Friday against the government’s efforts to clinch an economic “framework treaty” with the European Union.

A set of bilateral economic accords already exists. However, those accords are now endangered by Swiss voters’ narrowly approved decision to curb immigration in a February 2014 initiative pushed by Blocher’s Swiss People’s Party.

The Swiss government now faces a February 2017 deadline to determine how it will implement the will of the people. The first set of accords that govern Swiss-EU relations contain a “guillotine” clause to nullify all if one is eliminated.

Blocher told a news conference to launch his campaign (in French, German and Italian)external link that nothing can justify bringing Swiss laws into harmony with European Union treaties or letting Brussels impose binding rules and regulations on Switzerland, and then allowing EU courts to settle disputes.

The government, however, has repeatedly warned against such an approach because the Swiss economy would suffer. The EU is Switzerland’s biggest trading partner. On Friday, Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said that it is in the country's interests to have a framework treaty in line with what is happening in the EU to ensure businesses can compete and provide the jobs of the future.

Responding to Blocher's offensive, he said the negotiations with the EU were a marathon and not a sprint and should be approached as such.

The negotiations have run on a parallel track to immigration talks. But it would be up to parliament to approve of a deal, which could still be voted on through a potential referendum.

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