Swiss minister still optimistic about resumption of talks with EU

Cassis says a tendency to individualism and self-promotion have led to more polarisation in Swiss politics. Keystone/Peter Schneider

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has reaffirmed the government’s aim to re-negotiate controversial points of a planned umbrella accord with the European Union.

This content was published on January 18, 2021 minutes

He said a so-called framework agreement regulating the more than 120 bilateral deals is important for Switzerland. However, it is not a matter of life and death, he said in an interview in the Monday edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

Cassis said he was optimistic that the new Swiss chief negotiator, Livia Leu, will have a first round of talks with her EU counterpart in the “near future”. He expressed understanding for the delay as Brussels had to focus on talks with Britain about leaving the bloc – which now has 27 members – before the end of last year.

Switzerland has asked for “clarifications” on a number of issues in a draft treaty concluded in 2018, notably guaranteed salary levels, subsidies and welfare benefits.

However, opposition against the framework deal has grown again over the past weeks not only from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party but also from politicians of other parties and senior trade union representatives.

“They government decided to consolidate and extend the bilateral path with the EU. We want to continue to participate in the EU single market. Therefore, we need a framework accord,” he said.

Cassis, in office since 2017, also rejected calls to try to win further concessions from the EU following Britain’s deal with Brussels.

He said the situations for Britain and Switzerland are not comparable as London’s accord was purely a trade accord while Bern had concluded a host of other treaties as part of its bilateral accords over the past decades.

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