Swiss celebrities call for fresh start with Europe

Flagging: Recent efforts to break the diplomatic deadlock have failed Keystone / Martin Ruetschi

Thirty years after Swiss voters rejected joining the European Economic Area (EEA), almost 200 people in the public eye – including several former Swiss presidents – have called for the government to clarify quickly how it intends to shape relations with the European Union and better incorporate European realities.

This content was published on December 1, 2022 minutes

The broad support from all parts of Swiss society shows that the current stalemate with the EU can be overcome, the initiators of the “Call to Action” campaign said on Thursday. “Today a good compromise is capable of winning a majority, which strengthens the government’s hand in the upcoming negotiations,” they said.

On December 6, 1992, 50.3% of Swiss voters rejected joining the European Economic Area (EEA), a move which would have granted near-full access to the European single market. Since then, more than 120 bilateral accords have regulated relations. However, last year Switzerland unilaterally broke off negotiations on a framework deal to replace the accords, leading to a souring of relations between Bern and Brussels. Subsequent efforts to break the diplomatic deadlock have failed.

On Thursday the “Call to Action” campaigners said the stabilisation of relations between Bern and Brussels should not be put on the back burner. “There’s too much at stake. In view of the worsening global crises, hesitating and continuing to wait is not a strategy,” they said.

“After all, Switzerland’s best and most reliable allies are its European neighbours. The alternative to a contractually secured further development of the partnership with the EU is not the status quo but the erosion of cooperation.”

Signatories to the campaign include former cabinet ministers and presidents Pascal Couchepin, Joseph Deiss, Ruth Dreifuss, Arnold Koller, Moritz Leuenberger, Doris Leuthard and Samuel Schmid as well as Oscar-winning film director Xavier Koller and astronaut Claude Nicollier.

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