Cautious Rapprochement Bern and European Union After Relationship Breakup

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Switzerland is again seeking rapprochement with the European Union, six months after the country “abruptly” broke off negotiations over an umbrella treaty, according to EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič.

 

But Brussels “needs a strong political signal” that the Swiss are serious about patching up the rift, the European Commission vice-president warned. “Political confidence must be restored.”

In the spring, the Swiss suddenly withdrew from negotiations, which had been going on for seven years. Relations between the EU and the Alpine country are governed by around 120 agreements, mainly on trade. The EU wants to get rid of this patchwork. Negotiations started in 2014 on an umbrella agreement that was also reached at the end of 2018. But that agreement was never signed, and six months ago, the Swiss government finally put an end to further consultations. In particular, European rules on state aid and access for EU workers to Swiss social security were breaking points.

“After seven years of negotiations and 26 committee chairmen’s summits with Swiss leaders, it is very important for us that the Swiss make their intentions with the EU clear for the future,” Šefčovič said after the meeting with the Swiss foreign minister. Ignazio Cassis, the first meeting between Brussels and Bern since spring. Šefčovič wants proof that Switzerland “means it this time”. “It has to come from both sides.”

The two sides agreed to continue talks in January. The committee wants the Swiss to put their agenda on the table, with a timeline that makes it clear how they want to proceed.

Due to the situation, certain agreements have now expired, and others are in danger of ending. For example, European shares can no longer be traded on the Swiss stock exchange and vice versa.

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