Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has said that he will not bow down to pressure from the European Union to conclude a framework agreement by the end of the year.
“I will never accept a diktat from the European Union that we need to reach an agreement now,” Schneider-Ammann told Swiss public television RTS on Monday in response to a warning expressed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
"Time is running out," Juncker had said in an interview with RTS in September. “Negotiate with me, conclude with me, because within a year I will no longer be there, and you will see,” he said. He also warned “it could be really bad” for Switzerland after his departure.
According to Schneider-Ammann, the EU"needs us", and Switzerland has no reason to rush into an agreement before the end of the year. "It takes time to reach agreement internally and externally," he said.
Switzerland must take its time, according to Schneider-Ammann, who will relinquish office by the end of the year: "We talked about it in 2017, in 2018, why not in 2020 or in 2021, it doesn't matter”.
Brussels wants Switzerland to agree to a full treaty on equivalence before it gets greater access to EU markets and is pushing Bern to reach a deal this year amid ongoing Brexit talks and before elections in Switzerland and the EU scheduled for 2019.
Since 2014, talks have been taking place to formalise relations between the two sides, now covered by around 100 separate accords. The so-called framework agreement being discussed covers five of the larger bilateral deals: free movement of persons, mutual recognition on conformity assessment, agricultural products, air transport and land transport. Measures related to the free movement of persons are the main stumbling block.
The last round of negotiations held in October did not lead to a breakthrough.