Swiss government stays mum on EU negotiations strategy

The Swiss are getting ready to negotiate with the EU when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker visits next week Keystone

The seven-member Federal Council has refused to reveal its position on future negotiations with the European Union over CHF1 billion (little over $1 billion) in voluntary ‘cohesion’ payments destined for central and eastern European countries. and agencies

On Wednesday, the government discussed its European Union policy ahead of a visit by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on November 23. Despite questions from the press, no information on “cohesion” payments was revealed. 

“If we want to get results in a discussion, we cannot do it in public,” said the Federal Council spokesperson André Simonazzi. 

The payments, amounting to over CHF1 billion since 2008, have been used for improving care of the elderly, investing in energy efficiency and renewable energies, and reducing infant mortality among new EU member states like Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland. They have been put on hold as Switzerland tries to seek a comprehensive framework treaty to bolster bilateral relations with the European Union. Talks on about 15 bilateral issues were stalled following Swiss voters approving a proposal to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens in 2014. 

In June, the Swiss government said that it wanted to reassess the situation with the EU this autumn. Only then would the seven-member cabinet decide whether to continue contributing voluntary ‘cohesion’ payments.

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