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European Parliament commission calls for Yes in bilateral vote

The European Parliamentary commission responsible for the bilateral accords with Switzerland has called on the Parliament's members to approve the accords.

The European Parliamentary commission responsible for the bilateral accords with Switzerland has called on the Parliament's members to approve the accords. The Italian Socialist Massimo Carraro, the commission chairman, succeeded in his stated aim of ensuring that the European Parliament made its view clear ahead of Switzerland's referendum on the accords on May 21.

The bilateral accords cover a range of issues in Swiss-EU relations, including free movement of people, trade, agriculture, overland transport, and aviation. To enter into EU law they must be ratified by the national parliaments of all 15 EU member states.

The signal from the commission, recommending a Yes vote after the European Parliament holds its plenary session on the accords on May 3, is an important one. However, EU ratification is not a certainty. The Swiss political analyst, Julian Hottinger, says that Switzerland will still have to lobby the EU members to ensure they accept the bilaterals.

Switzerland decided against joining the European Economic Area after a 1992 referendum. Hottinger says the government, wary of a No vote on May 21, has deliberately not raised the prospect of a full bid for EU membership, an issue on which the authorities back-pedalled after the 1992 vote.

This has led some member states to accuse Switzerland of being unable to make up its mind about the relationship it wants with the EU.

Spain, Portugal, and Italy have been critical of Swiss delays in cementing relations with the EU. They have seen the bilaterals as giving a vacillating Switzerland undeserved reciprocal privileges in areas such as free movement of labour, social security, and pensions.

However, opponents have been less vociferous as both sides come closer to a vote. A rejection of the bilaterals, either by the EU members or by the Swiss people, seems unlikely.


swissinfo with agencies

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