EU Commissioner laments ‘trust problem’ with Switzerland

Maroš Šefčovic, the European Commission Vice-President responsible for Swiss relations and for Brexit. Keystone / Hollie Adams

European Union Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič says he wants a “clear political signal” from Switzerland that it is “serious” about working on a joint framework for relations.

This content was published on November 17, 2021 - 11:00

Šefčovič, who met Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in Brussels on Monday, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper today that the sudden breaking of negotiations on an agreement in May showed that there was a “trust problem” between the pair.

The commissioner reiterated the goals that came out of the meeting with Cassis: more frequent talks in the coming months should lead to a “roadmap” for relations that would be ready by January 2022, he said.

“We need a new impulse, a quick start,” said Šefčovič. He added that the EU “did not want to be surprised again”.

The Slovak also said that the “key questions” remained the same as those which torpedoed the framework agreement talks in May: the “dynamic” uptake of EU law by Switzerland, stricter state aid rules, and a common dispute-settlement mechanism.

And while the Swiss parliament agreed in September to release a CHF1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) “cohesion payment” – another important point for Brussels – Šefčovič nevertheless said the EU wanted to see a new mechanism to ensure the “regular” paying of such payments.

Several times in the interview on Wednesday, he also stressed that these questions – although they had led to the dropping of talks by the Swiss side – had not simply “disappeared” into thin air. They remain to be resolved, he said.

As for how exactly they will be resolved, this will be the focus of ministerial contacts in the coming months and presumably years. But Šefčovič was also clear that large “institutional questions” cannot be dealt with case by case.

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