Brussels slams Swiss attitude to treaty impasse

The shape of future political relations between Switzerland and the EU are still unclear. Keystone / Martin Ruetschi

The European Commission (EC) has accused Switzerland of time-wasting and of failing to take responsibility for finding a solution to finalise an institutional “framework agreement” aimed at simplifying future ties between the two sides.

This content was published on April 16, 2021 - 10:26

The damning verdict was contained in the notes of a briefing meeting between the EC and the 27 EU member states, which was leaked to Swiss public broadcasters SRF and RTS. High-ranking Swiss government ministers are due to travel to Brussels on April 23 to attempt to find a way out of the negotiation deadlock.

Switzerland is not an EU member state, but relations with the 27-member bloc are governed by a patchwork of 120 bilateral accords. In 2014, Brussels demanded that the sprawling set of treaties be anchored to a set of rules known as a “framework agreement”. A draft accord was reached in 2018, but it stalled in the face of Swiss domestic criticism and has never been ratified. 

The EC meeting notes from Wednesday express doubts as to whether Switzerland is even serious about landing a deal. "There is no commitment from Switzerland. The Commission cannot negotiate on its own,” the notes read.

The EC says it has made concrete proposals to solve the three main sticking points: state aid, protecting local wages and access to Swiss social welfare benefits for EU workers. With time ticking down to the crucial Brussels meeting, Swiss negotiators have failed to submit written concrete proposals, the EC complains.

The internal memo reiterates the EC’s often repeated message that there is no Plan B to sealing a framework agreement.

On Friday, the Swiss government announced that Economics Minister Guy Parmelin, who holds the rotating presidency this year, would represent Switzerland in Brussels on April 23.

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