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I won’t do a Boris Johnson, says Swiss president

Guy Parmelin, as seen at a press conference on April 12 Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Swiss President Guy Parmelin says he is not going to rock the boat when he travels to Brussels on April 23 for talks aimed at trying to break a negotiating deadlock with the European Union.

This content was published on April 18, 2021 - 11:17
Keystone-SDA/Sunday press/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

“I am not going to do a Boris Johnson in Brussels,” Parmelin told the French-speaking Sunday newspaper Le Matin DimancheExternal link, referring to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his behaviour during Brexit negotiations.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it does have a set of bilateral agreements with it. Currently both sides are trying to finalise an institutional “framework agreement” aimed at simplifying future ties between the two sides. But talks have run into an impasse. Earlier this week Brussels expressed its frustration at Switzerland in a leaked briefing, accusing it of time-wasting and failing to take responsibility in finding a solution.

On Friday it was announced that Parmelin, who holds the rotating presidency this year, would represent Switzerland at a meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on April 23. Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis will not be attending.

Speaking about the Swiss situation, Parmelin said it could not be compared to Brexit, Britain’s exit from the EU. Switzerland “does not want to leave an agreement, but find a solution for developing it further,” Parmelin maintained.

The Swiss government has “for a long time” been considering alternatives should the framework agreement fail to be agreed, the minister added.

Pressure

The Swiss business sector has been warning against such a scenario. “Switzerland will see a loss of jobs if there is no framework agreement, because our companies will start to invest abroad,” and the sector will move its jobs as well, Martin Hirzel, the president of the Swiss machine industry association Swissmem, told the NZZ am SonntagExternal link newspaper.

Hirzel believes that the population might accept the framework agreement, as the Swiss have always taken a “very pragmatic” approach to the EU.

He comments come after the Swiss Business Federation economiesuisse and the Swiss Employers’ Association called on Saturday in a joint statementExternal link for the Swiss government to clear up the outstanding issues with the EU. “It is in the interest of the whole country to ensure the bilateral path is secure for the future,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Swiss cantons also hope for progress but have warned that they should also have a say. “We have the right to be informed by the government before it takes any definitive decisions,” Christian Rathgeb, the president of the Conference of Cantonal Governments told the NZZ am Sonntag.

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