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Parliament urged to release EU money ‘as soon as possible’

It’s not certain that the government dispatch will be approved by both chambers in the autumn session Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

The Swiss government, keen to improve its strained relationship with the European Union, has adopted a dispatch to be brought before parliament “at the earliest opportunity” to release an EU cohesion payment.

This content was published on August 11, 2021 - 13:58
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The cohesion contribution, a CHF1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) payment to be made to the EU, goes towards financing reforms in newer members of the bloc. This would be the second such payment by the Swiss, after an initial contribution was approved by voters in 2006.

The current payment was ratified in 2019 by parliament, but conditions were attached and the funds have not been released following various spats with the EU, notably around stock market equivalence. After the government [Federal Council] unilaterally walked away from seven years of talks on a new framework treaty with the EU in May, it pledged to press parliament to release the funds as soon as possible as a way of smoothing over relations.

On Wednesday the government adopted a dispatch that, if approved by parliament, would remove conditions, freeing the way for the cohesion money to be released.

“With a swift implementation of the contribution, the Federal Council seeks to inject fresh momentum into Swiss-EU relations following the termination of negotiations on the institutional agreement. It hopes to initiate a process that will facilitate the continuation of the bilateral approach and progress on other EU dossiers,” the government said in a statementExternal link on Wednesday.

“Ultimately, approval of the contribution will also underline Switzerland’s commitment to continuing to work with the EU as reliable partner. The Federal Council also remains committed to ensuring that in assessing equivalence the EU does not discriminate against Switzerland or treat it differently from other non-EU countries.”

However, it’s not certain that the dispatch will be approved by both chambers in the autumn session. Some politicians have said normal procedure should continue: an issue is discussed in one session in one chamber and in the next session in the other. This would mean a decision could be expected in the winter session at the earliest.

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