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EU remains cagey but firm about future Swiss approach

Maroš Šefčovič
Maroš Šefčovič, EU Commission Vice-President, in Brussels on Wednesday. Keystone / Aris Oikonomou / Pool

The Vice-President of the European Commission says a general framework is important for regulating relations with Switzerland. More details of the EU approach will be announced in autumn.

Speaking to European parliamentarians in Brussels on Wednesday, Maroš Šefčovič said the Commission was determined to find the “best possible solution” with Switzerland, but that some sort of general frame was needed to solve the problems between the pair.

A month ago, Switzerland pulled the plug on years of negotiations with the EU around a framework agreement which aimed to simplify the webs of bilateral and sectorial agreements between them.

These bilaterals are now 20 years old, Šefčovič said on Wednesday, and many need renewing. However, differences with Switzerland – on state aid rules, the settlement of judicial differences, and a regular Swiss financial contribution to the EU’s budget – had not yet been solved.

For the Commission, a general framework to coordinate relations remained necessary, said Šefčovič , who also regretted the unilateral decision of the Swiss government to walk out of the negotiations.

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Swiss reject framework agreement deal with EU

This content was published on Citing “substantial differences”, the government has decided not to move ahead with a controversial institutional agreement on relations with the EU.

Read more: Swiss reject framework agreement deal with EU

Details in autumn

Šefčovič ’s comments come a day after the European Affairs ministers of the 27 EU member states also discussed – briefly – the Swiss question.

At a meeting in Brussels, representatives of three member states commented on the end of the framework deal – a “regrettable decision”, said Portuguese minister Ana Paula Zacarias, who said her country “wanted a strong and close partnership with Switzerland”.

As for the Commission, also present at the Tuesday meeting, the plan is to present by autumn this year more details on how the future relations with Switzerland will proceed.

According to a European diplomat cited by the Keystone-SDA news agency, the Commission is intent on ensuring that the EU approach is a common one, with the buy-in of all the member states – rather than a bilateral affair with the Commission.

The diplomat added that Switzerland would also have to be constructive and propose some ideas, not simply say “no”.


‘Unfair’ situation

Indeed, since the government said “no” at the end of May, ending seven years of negotiations, the relation seems unclear between Switzerland and its biggest trading partner.

Also on Tuesday, in an interview with Swiss public television SRF, EU Ambassador in Bern Petros Mavromichalis talked about his personal “disappointment”, and said that while the Swiss seemed to want the “status quo”, this was “not an option” for Europe.

“We are not ok with this [current] relationship, because it is unfair,” Mavromichalis said. “It gives Switzerland and Swiss actors access to the EU internal market, without having to accept all the rules of this market.”

For Mavromichalis, an agreement is needed in two key areas: the access (and rules) of the single market mentioned above, and the definition of a shared legal mechanism to adjudicate on differences.

“You can call it a framework agreement, you can call it what you like, but we need these two things unconditionally,” he said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR