Switzerland urged to confront EU ‘quickly’ as talks with bloc reaching breaking point

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Former State Secretary Michael Ambühl called for Switzerland to start negotiations with the EU and engage in dynamic legal adoption and binding rules for dispute settlement. Alongside his colleague Daniela S Scherer, Mr Ambühl warned the EU would lay down the framework for further action.

Switzerland would “revert to a reactive stance” and be less well-positioned in terms of negotiating tactics.

Their proposal consists of three parts, with the first part agreeing with the plans of the Federal Council.

Bern is looking to demonstrate goodwill and restore trust in the EU with more intensive contacts and unilateral measures.

This includes the second billion of the cohesion contribution, which the Federal Council would like to approve as quickly as possible.

According to Radio SRF, the management of the Council of States is not ready to discuss the business in the September session and the decision is not yet final.

Mr Ambühl and Ms Scherer also name a second concrete possibility of ensuring goodwill and a willingness to compromise in Brussels.

Switzerland could refrain from applying the valve clause on immigration to Croatia after the end of 2021, even though it would be entitled to do so.

In their second part of the proposal, they recommend a definition of European policy and a clear statement.

They said: “It would be good if Switzerland could clearly communicate what it actually wants.”

Their proposal said the announcement should not be decided by the Federal Council but by Parliament.

Switzerland also wants to continue on the bilateral path and is ready to start fresh negotiations.

Mr Ambühl and Ms Scherer are also looking to solve the problem of the “super guillotine” and argued the rules of dispute settlement and the adoption of rights should not be anchored in the separate framework agreement but by the individual agreements.

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This would mean that the overriding termination clause would no longer be necessary.

From their point of view, Switzerland should undertake to make regular and higher cohesion payments to poorer EU countries, under ‘Bilatarls III’.

They justify this by stating Switzerland, with its partial access to the EU internal market, must also support part of the internal market rules in matters of cohesion.

Switzerland also demanded the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would no longer play an explicit role.

The removal of the ECJ would make it easier for the EU to grant Bern the exception clauses that Mr Ambühl and Ms Scherer consider indispensable on sensitive issues.

To date, the EU has not been ready to grant Switzerland exceptional rules.

Fabian Schafer, head of the NZZ Federal Palace editorial team, wrote: “Hardly anyone denies that the relationship with Europe needs to be clarified. But it would be astonishing if the old ‘Europe alliance’ around the SP, FDP and the centre would gear up to proactively and quickly answer the open questions.

“It is more likely that Bern will wait for further reactions from Brussels announced for autumn – and hope that they will not be too nasty.”

Following Switzerland’s rejection of European Economic Area (EEA) membership in 1992, the two sides agreed seven sectoral agreements known as ‘Bilaterals I’ to supplement the 1972 FTA.

These ranged from free movement to trade barriers, public procurement to agriculture, and air and land transport.

In 2004, another set of bilateral agreements, ‘Bilaterals II’, were agreed to include Switzerland in the Schengen Area and Dublin system to ease travel, improve security cooperation and coordinate asylum policy, amongst other areas of cooperation.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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