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Swiss-EU relations in the balance

The European Union (EU) is Switzerland’s most important trading partner and for seven years, the pair have been trying to negotiate an umbrella agreement to update the ageing bilateral treaties between them. But this could be the end of the road. There has been little progress and Swiss government’s Foreign Affairs Commission has been discussing whether to ditch the talks.

Over 100 bilateral treaties set the terms for the relations between Switzerland – a non-EU member – and Brussels. A framework agreement has been reached that the Swiss government is broadly happy with, but sticking points remain around issues like wage protection, citizenship and social welfare rules, and the role of the European Court of Justice in settling disputes between the pair.

The framework deal has also come under attack from across the political spectrum. Among the critical voices include some trade unions on the left, as well as a group of wealthy entrepreneurs, the Boussole/Europe Alliance, who say the agreement is “bad for Switzerland’s sovereignty and its direct democracy”.

Switzerland’s new chief negotiator, Livia Leu, is trying to wring concessions from the EU at a time when Brussels seems unwilling to compromise. She is the fifth chief negotiator on bilateral relations with the EU since 2014.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis refuses to give up the ghost, saying he will personally intervene in an effort to keep the talks alive.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR