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EU relations Swiss leader asks peers to be quiet on EU matters

man in suit with shaved head

Swiss President Alain Berset, pictured at the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

(© KEYSTONE / PETER KLAUNZER)

President Alain Berset says he wishes government ministers would be less vocal regarding Switzerland’s framework agreement with the European Union. 

He said this on Saturday after Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis, and Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann made contradictory comments on the subject. 

“It would certainly be good if the federal councillors would not only appear united after a decision, but also employ a certain level of restraint in the immediate run-up to a debate,” said Swiss President and Home Affairs Minister Berset in an interview with the newspapers Tagesanzeiger and Bund on Saturday. Along with Berset, the three men are all part of the seven-member Federal Council, the executive branch of the Swiss government. Its presidency rotates among the members every year.

+ How the Swiss political system works 

Berset reiterated his call for more discretion on Samstagsrundschauexternal link, a Saturday programme on Swiss public radio, SRF. Yet he pointed out that overall, the council member collegiality is respected and works well. 

“Perhaps what they said has been overly interpreted,” said Berset. 

+ A vote in 2014 approving the re-introduction of immigration quotas for EU citizens put Swiss-EU relations under strain 

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Friday, Maurer said that a framework agreement would not be possible in the foreseeable future – and that Switzerland should seek further improvements under the bilateral agreements instead. 

In an interview with Swiss public television, RTS, on Friday, Schneider-Ammann said he was sceptical of a short-term solution with the EU – and that Switzerland would need a lot of time to make such an important decision, suggesting waiting to see what would happen to Britain in the wake of Brexit. 

Meanwhile, on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Cassis reaffirmed the will of the entire government to come to an agreement with the EU. 

On Wednesday, the Swiss government wants to set its negotiating strategy with the EU. Switzerland is not a member of the 28-nation bloc, but has many bilateral agreements with the EU.

SDA-ATS/SRF/sm

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