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Swiss and French foreign ministers discuss EU and Covid

Ignazio Cassis (right) welcomes Jean-Yves Le Drian to Bern Keystone

The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs has expressed his hope that Switzerland will validate the framework agreement with the European Union. Jean-Yves Le Drian and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also discussed bilateral cooperation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This content was published on November 17, 2020 - 10:25
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“Ignazio has informed me of Switzerland’s comments and its willingness to find a way to reach agreement on a few sensitive points. But the negotiations are initiated by the [European] Commission and it is up to the Commission to continue them, although I am very pleased to be informed of the most important points for the Swiss side,” Le Drian said during a joint press briefing in Bern in Monday.

The two men did not give any details on the content of their discussion on this sensitive subject in Switzerland, where opinion polls show a reluctance on the part of the population to go further in cooperation with the European Union, while support from the political parties is waning.

“In Swiss opinion, the Swiss nation is independent and autonomous, it expresses its feelings, it has the means of a great democratic country and I hope it will be able to validate the framework agreement; but it is the responsibility of the Swiss people,” Le Drian stressed. Cassis did not give more details.

On November 11 the Swiss government tweeted that it had determined its position on the draft legal harmonisation agreement under discussion with the European Union. But it added that “the position will not be made public so as not to hinder Switzerland’s room for manoeuvre in the discussions”.

Negotiations on this agreement were concluded in 2018. However, the Swiss government did not sign it and asked Brussels for clarification on three points: the protection of Swiss wages, the provisions on the regulation of state aid and the free movement of citizens, which could ultimately increase European access to Swiss social benefits.

The institutional framework agreement that Brussels wants is a sort of super agreement that will regulate the 120-plus existing bilateral texts between Switzerland and the EU, and ensure better harmonisation of Swiss and European law.

Pandemic

Le Drian’s visit to Bern follows a visit made by Cassis to Paris on March 9-10, shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis.

The two ministers expressed their appreciation for the “excellent cooperation” between France and Switzerland in efforts to counter the pandemic since the spring. They also noted the frequency of high-level contacts between the two countries, stating that both sides intended to continue cooperating in the same spirit.

Le Drian also paid a visit to Simonetta Sommaruga, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year.

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