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EU ministers keep pressure up on Swiss framework deal

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The EU Commission in Brussels. Keystone / Olivier Hoslet

In Brussels on Tuesday, European Union foreign ministers discussed, among other issues, the future of the Swiss-EU framework deal.

After the meeting, EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic reiterated that the EU was ready to continue negotiating a framework agreement, and that a failure to come to some arrangement soon would lead to an “erosion” of bilateral relations.

The summit came two weeks after Swiss President Guy Parmelin went to Brussels to meet Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, a meeting that largely failed to clear up blockages in bilateral relations.

The 120-odd bilateral deals currently between the EU and Switzerland (which is not part of the EU) are getting “old”, as Sefcovic put it, and the apparent goal of both sides is to regulate relations through an overarching framework agreement.

As for the various EU member states, while “all” underlined the importance of good relations with Switzerland on Tuesday, according to Portuguese minister Ana Paula Zacarias, the immediate neighbours of the Alpine nation were most vocal.

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German minister Michael Roth, for example, told Swiss public television SRF that while relations with Switzerland were extremely important, “whoever wants to benefit from the single market must also play by its rules”.

French minister Clément Beaune also spoke about the importance of “protecting the [EU] single market”. He said that while Europe was open for discussions, the ball was in the court of “our Swiss friends” to say whether and when the current draft deal can be signed.

Beaune said he couldn’t envisage any new option that breaks out of the framework already negotiated.

Cantonal input

Also on Tuesday, Switzerland’s 26 cantons, through the voice of the Conference of Cantonal governments, added their position to the EU debate with a statement that warned against signing off on the framework deal “at any price”.

The body, which represents the position of Switzerland’s (largely autonomous) regions, said that the three sticking points in the deal – state aid, citizenship, and labour market access rules – should be resolved in Switzerland’s interest.

Switzerland has already made “important concessions” in these areas, the cantons said.

And yet, they said, summing things up nicely, the positions of the EU and Switzerland on these areas seem quite far apart.

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