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Swiss bid to reset EU relations falls flat

Anthony Anex

A new Swiss proposal on the future of bilateral relations with the European Union faces an uphill battle in Brussels.

This content was published on April 28, 2022 - 10:18
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On Wednesday, Switzerland’s chief negotiator Livia Leu met with the European Commission’s Juraj Nociar to move the discussion forward after the Swiss broke off negotiations on an overarching framework deal almost exactly a year ago.

“Important differences remain to be discussed. Switzerland is committed to finding solutions together,” said Leu on Twitter after the meeting.

In 2021, Switzerland unilaterally broke off negotiations on a framework deal to replace the more than 120 bilateral accords which have regulated relations for the past decades. That led to a souring of relations between Bern and Brussels. 

Wednesday's encounter marked the second exploratory meeting on a new Swiss proposal referred to as “Bilateral 3”. It was cobbled together by the Swiss government  to replace the failed framework agreement. At the end of February, the Federal Council said it wanted "a new package for future relations" with the EU.

For the EU, many questions remained unanswered. At this stage, the European Commission is not in a position to decide whether the Federal Council's proposal constitutes an "acceptable basis" for negotiations, it wrote in a statement.

The EU wants to "find a systematic solution" that applies equally to all agreements that would have been covered by the framework agreement. According to Brussels, this implies a uniform interpretation and application of the agreements, a dynamic adoption of the law, a dispute settlement mechanism in which the EU Court of Justice plays a role, as well as a "regular and fair" contribution to cohesion funds meant for less prosperous EU members. 

The European Commission is adamant on the inclusion of a “guillotine clause” stipulating that if one of the bilateral agreements is terminated, the other agreements are also cancelled.

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