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Swiss-EU deal on health crises in the works

A Swiss, left, and a EU flag, right, stand in the government building during the courtesy visit from Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, in Bern, Switzerland.
Since mid-March, the Federal Council has been holding talks with the European Union Commission to regulate future relations between the two partners. KEYSTONE / PETER SCHNEIDER

The Federal Council is planning an agreement with the EU to work more closely with its neighbours in case of a health crisis. The government is also negotiating with the EU Commission about new food safety and air transport treaties.

Since mid-March, the Federal Council has been holding talks with the European Union Commission to regulate future relations between the two partners. In the future, Switzerland would adapt its legislation to EU law, both for any new agreements and for existing agreements, as stated in the so-called, “Common Understanding.”

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To combat cross-border health threats such as a pandemic, the government would like to participate in the EU’s crisis management networks and mechanisms. It is also seeking to participate in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the EU’s health programme, as stated in the negotiating mandate.

Talks on a health agreement between Switzerland and the EU have been ongoing since 2008. However, due to the unresolved institutional issues, these have never been finalised. Cooperation has therefore so far been on a case-by-case basis and limited to crisis situations.

Exception for Swiss animal welfare

The two partners are also negotiating a new food-safety agreement. As part of this, the existing agricultural agreement is to be extended to cover the entire food supply chain. The Federal Council stated that the term “food supply chain” encompasses all aspects of food law from the field to the plate.

On the one hand, the Federal Council is thus pursuing the goal of preventing counterfeit food and unsafe, unhealthy products on the market. On the other hand, Swiss food producers will have improved access to the domestic market, writes the government.

The existing exceptions, such as the animal transit ban and the ban on genetically modified seeds, would be retained. Furthermore, new exemptions to safeguard Swiss standards, particularly in relation to animal welfare, are to be enshrined in the agreement, as both parties have indicated in their negotiating mandates. The negotiations do not affect agricultural policy.

More business for Swiss airlines

In the field of aviation, Switzerland has had an agreement with the EU since 2002 that gives Swiss airlines access to the European single market. According to the Federal Council, it also ensures a high level of safety and regulates Swiss participation in the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The Federal Council is also pursuing terms which will expand business opportunities in the flight industry. For example, it would like to realise so-called “cabotage.” This would allow Swiss airlines to offer domestic connections in third countries and vice versa. This practice is already being implemented within the EU.

Adapted from German by DeepL/dkk/ac

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

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