European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he is ready to clarify any doubts Switzerland may have about a future institutional framework deal with the European Union. He wants Bern to sign a new accord before June 18.
In a letter sent to Swiss President Ueli Maurer on Tuesday, Juncker described Switzerland’s new position, outlined last Friday, as “a positive message which would allow us to sign this fundamental agreement together at the earliest possible moment”.
Mina Andreeva, deputy chief spokesperson of the European Commission, tweeted a copy of Juncker's letter on Tuesday.
The Swiss government is demanding clarifications from Brussels on several issues before it signs off on a draft treaty aimed at simplifying future ties with the EU, presently covered by around 120 separate bilateral accords.
The Swiss cabinet said on Friday that following a national consultation with business groups, unions and local authorities, provisions relating to wage and worker protection, state subsidies and citizens' rights still need to be clarified.
In his reply, Juncker said the EU would attempt “all possible, justifiable” clarifications which are in line with the spirit of the draft agreement that Switzerland and the EU concluded in November 2018 after four years of negotiations. The bloc has been pushing for the accord for a decade.
“But this [draft treaty] will not be renegotiated,” Juncker added.
He said clarifications should come quickly, which was "essential" to secure agreement in the next few days so that the European Commission could also endorse it at a meeting set for June 18.
The Commission originally set December 11, 2018 as the deadline for Swiss approval of the draft treaty but then gave Switzerland an extra six-months for a consultation.
What’s at stake
Since 2014, talks have been taking place to formalise relations between Bern and Brussels, currently covered by around 120 separate bilateral accords negotiated since a 1992 referendum in the Alpine state rejected joining the European Economic Area.
The proposed agreement covers five of the larger bilateral deals: free movement of people, mutual recognition of industrial standards, agricultural products, air transport, and land transport.
Experts say failure to endorse the treaty and begin the ratification process could severely shake Swiss ties with its biggest trading partner, potentially disrupting commerce and cross-border stock trading.