14th Nov 2019

EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction

  • The EU commission is fed up with Switzerland's foot-dragging (Photo: Patrick Nouhailler)

The EU commission did not propose extending the Swiss stock exchange's direct access to EU markets on Tuesday (18 June) - in an effort to pile pressure on Bern to stop dragging its feet in concluding talks on the EU-Swiss framework agreement.

The so-called "equivalency" will expire on 30 June, unless the commission proposes to extend it after that.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

EU officials have said Bern has until Friday to make a move in the talks that have been stalled since the draft agreement was reached last November.

"We really have a very clear conscience that president Jean-Claude Juncker and commissioner [Johannes] Hahn and the services did the utmost," commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said on Tuesday after a meeting of the commissioners.

"We really have a feeling that we did our best, we consider the institutional framework agreement as the best possible to achieve, our doors are always open, but at this stage, if the commission does not decide otherwise, the equivalency will automatically expire on 30 June," he added.

The EU-Swiss framework agreement is aimed at streamlining over 120 bilateral accords already in place that regulate the relationship between the bloc and Switzerland - which is not an EU member but is part of the European Economic Area.

They concluded a package of institutional agreement and additional protocols last November, when the the Swiss government said they want to hold public consultations.

"We believe it is a fair outcome, it goes to the absolute limit on what EU can offer, on state aid and treatment of workers and institutional issues," an EU official said on condition of anonymity.

On 7 June, Juncker received a letter from the Swiss government saying Bern will only sign the agreement points relating to wage and worker protection; state subsidies and citizens' rights still need to be clarified.

Juncker answered in a letter to Swiss president Ueli Maurer, that the commission can only give clarifications, and cannot reopen talks - conditional that those clarifications can be done quickly, and that the two sides' overall aim will be to sign the agreement before Juncker leaves office at the end of October.

Commission officials claim the Swiss have been silent ever since.

"There hasn't been any progress, the process hasn't begun," one EU official said.

"Therefore the college today was not able to find meaningful progress, and did not see the need for any decisions to be done, […] it id a disappointment that ten days after asking for clarification, no serious engagements on these clarifications," the official said.

"It is not a straightjacket the EU wants to force on Switzerland", the official added on the framework agreement, while Bern has been reluctant to sign up to the freedom of movement's EU interpretation.

Brexit backdrop

The Swiss government needs to pass the agreement through parliament and then a referendum, highlighting the need for political consensus on the deal. Some of the far-right opposition has stood up against the entire agreement, and closer alignment with the EU.

Some of the left-wing parties and trade unions have also been vocal about restricting the freedom of movement of EU citizens, which they see as threatening wages in Switzerland.

The government in Bern is keen to secure "clarifications", which to the commission sound more like tweaks to the existing draft deal, to get political backing for the ratification of the agreement back home.

Against the backdrop of Brexit, the commission has also been reluctant to show flexibility to Switzerland – fearing it could trigger hopes in the UK for a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement, agreed last year.

The commission had been using the "equivalency" as leverage to put political pressure on the Swiss government to end the stalemate.

Last December the commission temporarily extended the equivalence by six months until the end of June, after talks with Bern failed to reach a compromise.

If Switzerland and the EU does not resolve the issue, the EU could let older agreements with Switzerland expire without renewing them, and will not make new ones.

Switzerland could lose access to the EU's Horizon Europe program, which starts in 2021 and funds research and innovation, and Switzerland could suspend contributing payments to EU cohesion funds.

EU eyes 'specific' Swiss deal on migrants

The European Commission is “OK” to make a “Swiss-specific” pact on immigration, even if it has an impact on upcoming talks with the UK.

EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal

The EU commission is giving more time to the Swiss government to endorse a deal that would put various sectorial agreements to access the single market under one deal. Nevertheless, after Brexit, the EU has had enough of exceptions.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?

Uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Spanish election - the fourth in four years - is rising, as polls suggest that the outcome of Sunday's vote could be as inconclusive April's election. Thousands of police are on the streets of Barcelona.

News in Brief

  1. Police end Catalan separatist blockade of France-Spain road
  2. Poland arrests extremists for 'planning attacks on Muslims'
  3. Controversial commission portfolio name changed
  4. Catalan party to support new Spanish coalition
  5. Russia jails six Crimean Tatar activists for terrorism
  6. Venice flooded with highest tide in 53 years
  7. Border controls 'the norm' in some EU states since 2015
  8. Netherlands plan to reduce speed limit to 100km/h

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  2. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  4. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  5. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  6. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  8. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  12. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.

Latest News

  1. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile
  2. Mustard gas and cod: Last chance to stop Nord Stream 2?
  3. Cultural Battlefield
  4. Nationalists as much a threat to EU arts as resources
  5. Dear President Macron, being a migrant is not a crime
  6. Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says
  7. Pro-Israeli group scores own goal on EU retail labels
  8. New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  2. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  3. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  4. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  5. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  11. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us