Cassis ready to go to Brussels to save EU framework agreement

Cassis said it was too early to talk about a Plan B if no agreement could be reached with the European Union. Keystone / Anthony Anex

The Swiss foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis believes he should accompany the president Guy Parmelin to the European capital for final negotiations on a proposed institutional framework deal that has stalled over Swiss misgivings.

This content was published on April 11, 2021 - 11:48

“No other Federal Councillor knows the dossier as well as I do,” Cassis said in an interview with the newspaper SonntagsBlick.

Switzerland’s chief negotiator with the European Union, state secretary Livia Leu, has held six rounds of talks with her European counterparts in recent months, Cassis revealed. The Federal Council (cabinet) was now reviewing the results of those discussions in order to decide on the next steps, he added.

A draft deal between the two trading partners was provisionally reached in 2018, but progress on signing has since stalled because of lingering questions on the Swiss side about sovereignty and rules in three key areas: wage protection, state aid, and citizenship.

The country’s top diplomat believed that the scope for action was greater for politicians than it was for state secretaries: “Negotiations usually start at a technical level and end with a political decision,” he said.

Several media outlets, including the SonntagsBlick, have in recent weeks suggested that discussions between the two parties had reached the point where the Federal Council was ready to throw in the towel. But according to Cassis, success or failure was a possible outcome in every negotiation.

Moreover, he added, it was too early to talk about a Plan B if no agreement could be reached. Switzerland would first need to examine “what the EU is prepared to give”, he said.

Although Cassis said it was “not wise to talk about a delegation” for the time being, according to media reports, justice minister Karin Keller-Sutter could also be among those making the trip to Brussels to meet with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. The issue is likely to be clarified when the Federal Council meets next Wednesday.

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