Parliament has given the Swiss government a clear mandate to extend negotiations with the European Union over the shape of future bilateral ties. But the EU appears to have less appetite for haggling over details of the so-called framework agreement.
On Thursday the House of Representatives agreed that several areas of the deal still needed “clarification”. The main areas of disagreement between Switzerland and the EU are on maintaining wage and worker protection as well as state subsidies and citizens’ rights.
The Senate had previously voted to instruct the government to go back to the negotiating table. This follows months of public consultation over an initial draft of the agreement that was thrashed out last year. Negotiations to formalise relations, currently covered by around 120 separate bilateral accords, have been ongoing since 2014.
The EU has shown signs of losing patience with Switzerland. For example, it has threatened to block the Swiss stock exchange from having equal access to the EU market if the deal is not signed by the end of this month.
European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker has categorically rejected the notion of extensive re-negotiations and says he only has time and patience for “rapid clarifications” of some points.
The parliamentary debate again demonstrated the sharp divide between left and right leaning parties on the EU issue. The government has stated that it will not sign a deal that has little chance of being accepted by parliament or the Swiss voters in a likely referendum.