Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

EU tells Switzerland: 'It takes two to tango'

  • EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič (r) welcoming Swiss federal foreign minister Ignazio Cassis in his office (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

The EU called on Monday (15 November) on Switzerland to set out a timetable, and show willingness to agree on a framework accord, to manage its relationship with Brussels.

"It takes two to tango," said EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, after meeting Swiss federal foreign minister Ignazio Cassis.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The talks are meant to restart dialogue, after Switzerland suddenly broke off negotiations with the EU, its biggest trading partner, in May.

Back then, the EU's state-aid rules, and issues around freedom of movement (such as access to welfare system and fears around defending high Swiss wages) were blamed by Bern for the rupture in talks.

The EU and Switzerland have been working on-and-off on an overarching agreement to replace a patchwork on bilateral agreements for the past 13 years.

"What we now need from Switzerland is the unambiguous political will to engage with us on the real issues that count and a credible timetable," Šefčovič, who is also the EU's top man for relations with the fellow non-EU UK, said.

"Any political dialogue must be focused and substantial," he added.

"We will meet again in Davos in the second half of January to assess the progress. By then, we will see whether a true political commitment is there," Šefčovič said.

The EU wants Switzerland to agree to dynamic alignment of its laws to evolving EU laws, a level-playing field, a mechanism to settle disputes, and regular contributions to EU funds for the bloc's cohesion funds.

As a sign of goodwill, the Swiss parliament in September gave the green light to the disbursement of more than €1.2bn in cohesion funds, even though the issue is politically controversial at home.

Šefčovič welcomed that move as "positive", but warned that the payment dates back to 2012.

He said there is a need for regular financial contributions in the future from Switzerland.

Around 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland, according to EU statistics, and some 340,000 people commute to Switzerland from the EU to work.

The commission vice-president argued that every country participating in the EU's single market has to "abide by the same rules and obligations".

Šefčovič said he hoped for "substantial progress" next year in negotiations.

One of the consequences of breaking off talks in May was on Switzerland's participation in the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, with a budget of €95bn.

Šefčovič said Swiss researchers and institutions could continue to participate in the programme, but they would not be able to access EU taxpayers' money until the issues are resolved.

Last month, Switzerland released funding to support Swiss research projects that have been part of the Horizon Europe programme.

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.

EU and Switzerland agree on free movement

EU states approved a new Swiss law that will allow EU citizens to work freely in Switzerland despite a 2014 referendum on immigration quotas.

Switzerland threatens EU immigration quota

The Swiss government announced it would limit immigration from EU countries with a unilateral quota by March 2016 if it is unable to strike a deal with the EU.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  2. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  3. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK
  4. The human rights aspects of Grenoble's 'burkini' controversy
  5. Council must act on core of EU migration package
  6. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  7. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  8. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us