Switzerland ready to begin new bilateral negotiations with EU
The government says it is ready to enter into a new round of negotiations on a series of bilateral accords with the European Union. At its session on Wednesday, the cabinet said all preconditions had now been met and negotiations could begin as soon as possible.
The cabinet announcement follows Monday's decision by the EU General Council to approve in principle negotiations on 10 designated issues. At the same time the Council instructed the European Commission to prepare mandates for opening talks with Switzerland on all the issues.
The government said the EU decision was a green light to both parties. Bilateral negotiations are now expected to proceed on four areas where mandates already exist, namely customs fraud, the environment, processed agricultural products and statistics.
Talks between the two sides on the six remaining issues will also follow soon as a precursor to negotiations later this year.
As a first step, Swiss and EU officials will meet in the next few days to work out a timetable and procedures for the opening of negotiations.
The 10 areas of interest to the EU and Switzerland include issues left over from the previous round of bilateral talks concluded last year.
The first round of seven bilateral treaties on mainly trade issues, covering such issues as transport and the free movement of people, were ratified by the Swiss people a year ago. They have to be approved by EU parliaments - a process that is expected to be concluded later this year.
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