EU relations with Switzerland are collapsing due to negotiations over the country’s place in the EU’s internal market. Brussels has been pushing for years for a treaty to cap a series of bilateral agreements and force Switzerland to systematically adopt changes to single market rules.
Talks between Bern and its biggest trading partner broke down in May 2021 over fears of ceding too much sovereignty to the bloc.
On Wednesday, EU Ambassador Petros Mavromichalis criticized Bern for its demands.
He said: “We gave Switzerland almost everything they wanted.
“At some point, you have to say to yourself: enough is enough.”
It has been a year since the Federal Council broke off negotiations with Brussels on a framework agreement.
The record of the ambassador to the EU is devastating: the climate is freezing.
All the problems that the agreement was supposed to solve were still there.
Switzerland would benefit the most from the EU’s internal market, even if it were not a member.
When participating in the internal market, it must accept EU rules – especially in the controversial area of free movement of people.
In the past, the EU had made great efforts to accommodate Switzerland.
For example, he had accepted exceptions and a new arbitral tribunal.
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President Ignazio Cassis did not accept the harsh criticism. He shot back: “We are also disappointed with the lack of flexibility the EU has shown so far.
“We expect the EU to be a bit more pragmatic in welcoming us.”
The Federal Council decided in February that it wanted to regulate individual issues such as the free movement of persons, land transport or technical barriers to trade with the EU individually – and no longer with a comprehensive framework agreement.
Furthermore, he wants to expand the scope of the negotiations to include additional topics such as electricity and health.
Switzerland’s chief diplomat, Livia Leu, has since had two rounds of talks with her contact at the European Commission.
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A recently published exchange of letters between Switzerland and the EU has clearly shown that the positions are very far apart.
Domestically, the Federal Council is under pressure from the economy and research, which are feeling the negative consequences of the blockade.
The National Council also exerted pressure this week.
In a narrow decision, he called on the Federal Council to negotiate another cohesion payment with the EU – in return for readmission to the EU’s Horizon research programme.
The Federal Council will have the opportunity for an in-depth debate this Friday: a closed session on European policy is on the agenda.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg