Switzerland wants to intensify talks with EU

Relations between Switzerland and the EU have remained frosty for a year. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The Swiss government has resolved to "step up" exploratory talks with the European Union aimed at resolving differences concerning future bilateral relations.

This content was published on June 17, 2022 minutes

Switzerland has repeatedly rejected EU demands to replace a series of separate treaties with a unified set of rules. In May of last year, Switzerland walked away from these negotiationsExternal link on the grounds that voters were likely to reject such an arrangement.

Since then, political relations have remained frosty with both sides accusing the other of inflexibility. Diplomats have formally met twice in an effort to resolve the impasse and the Swiss government has now indicated that it wants to intensify the pace of these discussions.

Switzerland has already put forward a set of proposalsExternal link for the EU. These include a proposal for the “full implementation” of the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU.

This has been a major area of contention since Swiss voters agreed to adopt quotas on foreign workers in 2014. However, a subsequent referendum in 2020 to tighten immigration even further was roundly rejected.

The Swiss government says former migration office chief Mario Gattiker had held meetings with “key domestic political actors” to discuss “the removal of regulatory differences” relating to the free movement of persons.

Switzerland also wants to prioritise full access to EU research programmes, such as Horizon Europe.  

Exploratory talks with the EU will also include new agreements on electricity, food safety and health, future contributions to the cohesion fund, a system for dispute resolution and the “dynamic adoption of EU law developments”.

The government says that the EU “is largely receptive to Switzerland's package proposal” but has called for greater flexibility from Brussels.

“The EU continues to publicly maintain its well-known positions on the institutional issues, making it difficult to find common ground between Switzerland's and the EU's interests. Their respective positions remain far apart and further clarifications are needed,” read a statement. “The Federal Council will decide on a negotiating mandate once there is a sufficient basis for opening negotiations.”

Swiss public broadcaster SRF says that a new round of talks could be scheduled before the summer break.

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