Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer says it would be politically impossible for Switzerland to sign a new accord with the European Union soon. His comments are far less optimistic than recent ones by new foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis.
Cassis is expected to present the Federal Council’s (Swiss government) official position on European policy on January 31.
Maurer told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper on Fridayexternal link that he didn’t think a new EU framework treaty was possible soon. “If we try it nonetheless, both sides will be under pressure and this will not lead to good negotiating results,” he said.
Maurer said Switzerland should not try to finish negotiations before Brexit in 2019, because it wasn’t in the Swiss mentality to move so quickly.
And he added that it was time to be realistic with Brussels about prospects for a deal. This comes after Swiss officials sent mixed signals concerning a treaty to replace 120 bilateral accords that currently govern ties between Switzerland and its most important trading partner.
Maurer’s comments come two days after new foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis told a press conference at the World Economic Forumexternal link in Davos that he was optimistic and that it should be possible to reach a deal before Brexit.
Last weekend, Swiss President Alain Berset also commented on the struggle to finalise negotiations on bilateral Swiss-EU accords.
Also at WEF, the EU Commissioner on Economic and Financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, warned that countries on the EU’s tax evasion “grey list” - which includes Switzerland - would not be removed if they made promises they couldn’t keep.
The EU put Switzerland on this grey list in December 2017 along with 44 other countries which Brussels says are not doing enough to fight tax evasion. There is also a black list of tax havens, which the EU reduced by eightexternal link earlier this week.
In later comments, Cassis said on Friday, while wrapping up his WEF participation, that he had met Johannes Hahn, who is responsible for relations with Switzerland on behalf of the EU. It was the first meeting with Hahn. Until now, Switzerland has had no specific interlocutor in negotiations.
Cassis said that this meeting had been positive. He added that he wanted to “calm down this excessive dramatisation in Switzerland”. It would not be the end of the world if a solution was not found. It’s important to find a solution that would be accepted by the public, he said.