Thursday

27th Jul 2017

EU to Switzerland: 'Where are we going with this relationship?'

  • The EU's relationship with Switzerland is not a finely tuned machine (Photo: Andy2580)

European Union foreign ministers have issued a tough-worded warning to Switzerland that its relationship with the bloc is dysfunctional and must be radically changed.

There is no overarching framework for the relationship between the EU and the mountainous republic situated in the middle of the bloc but unbendingly outside its strictures. Instead, the two have a series of some 120 sector-by-sector agreements, a situation the EU foreign ministers on Tuesday described as "unwieldy", "inconsistent" and "incoherent."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The long-soured relationship between the two sides has "clearly reached its limits," they said in a report, and hinted that Bern's intransigence threatened access to the EU market.

Fed up with the sectoral approach, the bloc is demanding a robust, overarching agreement between the two sides.

In essence, they suggested that it is time for Switzerland to decide whether it wants closer integration with the bloc or to be cast out into the market-access wilderness.

Stressing that they still respected Switzerland's sovereignty, the ministers nevertheless said that they have "come to the conclusion that while the present system of bilateral agreements has worked well in the past, the challenge of the coming years will be to go beyond this complex system, which is creating legal uncertainty and has become unwieldy to manage and has clearly reached its limits."

The ministers said that coming up with agreements covering different sectors on an ad hoc basis had been of "mutual interest" initially, but had over the years "turned into ... a highly complex set of multiple agreements."

Without "efficient arrangements" to ensure Switzerland adopts EU law, including case law set down by European Court of Justice rulings, and enforcement of this law, the European single market, which Switzerland has access to, lacks the "necessary homogeneity," said the ministers.

In other words, some Swiss law is more favourable to Swiss companies or individuals than it is to other Europeans.

Specifically, the ministers said they were "very concerned" about Switzerland's cantonal tax systems that they say amount to subsidies that favour domestic firms and encourage firms to set up shop in the country rather than elsewhere. They want such preferential rules abolished.

The bloc wants the country to crack down on tax evasion and fraud.

The EU is also concerned that Switzerland is not consistently applying rules on the free movement of people, particularly rules that require individuals to provide prior notification before arriving and an eight-day waiting period.

The European Commission on behalf of the bloc is currently engaged in talks with Bern over many of these concerns, but it is understood they are not proceeding well.

In September, the Swiss Federal Council insisted that the bilateral, sectoral approach remain the limit of relations between the two sides.

Swiss army prepares for euro unrest

The Swiss army is preparing for possible internal civil unrest and refugees from euro-countries as the economic crisis drags on.

News in Brief

  1. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  2. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  3. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  4. Swedish government rocked by data scandal
  5. Member states relocate 3,000 migrants in June
  6. Top EU jurist says Malta's finch-trapping against EU law
  7. EU judges rule to keep Hamas funds frozen
  8. EU court rejects passenger data deal with Canada

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound
  2. Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue
  3. EU court could dismiss national borders in cyberspace
  4. Confusion swirls around Macron's Libya 'hotspots'
  5. Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland
  6. UK requests EU migration study, 13 months after Brexit vote
  7. EU defends airline data-sharing after court ruling
  8. Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis