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New mandates for Bilaterals II

The EU Commission has revived bilateral talks between Switzerland and the EU

(Keystone)

The European Union has presented Switzerland with four negotiating mandates for the second set of bilateral agreements, known as Bilaterals II.

On Tuesday, the Commission presented the four new negotiating mandates, which include the Schengen and Dublin accords, the liberalisation of services and the media.

The four mandates still need the approval of the Council of Ministers, but EU foreign ministers have already said they would discuss the issue during their meeting in Luxembourg next Monday.

Even though the Commission did not mention education or professional training, the decision to present the mandates has revived the bilateral negotiations on ten key areas between Switzerland and the EU, which have recently come to a halt.

Stumbling block

In February, the two sides hit a stumbling block over how to proceed with negotiations on a second set of bilateral agreements.

Brussels and Bern were at odds over the timing of the negotiations, which include customs fraud, the taxation of savings, liberalising services and cooperation on asylum and security.

Whereas the EU was keen to accelerate the processes for customs fraud and the taxation of savings, Switzerland wanted the ten items on the agenda to be addressed simultaneously, in order to achieve a package of balanced accords.

Customs fraud is seen as a make-or-break issue, and the discussions have stalled over the EU's demand that Switzerland makes further concessions.

A number of EU states also see these negotiations as an ideal opportunity to breach the fortress of Swiss banking secrecy.

swissinfo with agencies

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