Switzerland calls for ‘appropriate exceptions and safeguards’ in letter to EU

Switzerland's chief negotiator Livia Leu has been trying to break the political impasse with the EU. © Keystone / Peter Schneider

Switzerland’s chief EU negotiator Livia Leu has reiterated the country’s desire to move beyond institutional issues and focus on establishing common political ground before negotiations with Brussels can resume.

This content was published on June 2, 2022 - 12:27

The letter, dated May 30 and leaked to the press this week, comes in response to an EU request that Switzerland send written responses to a series of open questions, as talks have been unable to resolve the current political impasse. Switzerland and the EU have been trying to work out a way forward on bilateral relations after the Swiss rejected an overarching framework agreement to govern long-term ties almost exactly a year ago.

Some of the open issues include the role of the European Court of Justice in settling disputes between the pair, the dynamic adoption by Switzerland of EU legislation, rules on state aid and the free movement of people.

In the letter, Leu says Switzerland respects the EU’s need to ensure “the homogeneity of the internal market” but asked for acknowledgement that Switzerland doesn’t enjoy the same rights as EU member states. She indicated that the two parties are still in an exploratory phase to see if common ground can be established in order to move forward with concrete negotiations.

Common interest

In an interviewExternal link with the Tages-Anzeiger on Wednesday, Leu said that Switzerland wants to return to a “proven method” that has worked in securing two bilateral agreements in the past. Specifically, this means working on themes where there is a common interest, such as electricity, health and food. In the interview, she said that “it is a different approach, designed to make it easier to balance both sides.”

She acknowledged, however, the need to address other overarching issues as part of the “package approach”. One of those is dynamic legal adoption. On this, Leu told the newspaper that “we are ready to take a big step towards the EU”. In the letter, Leu said that this could happen provided appropriate exceptions and safeguards to protect Switzerland’s essential interests are taken into account.

However, she said the Swiss government has been clear that it doesn’t want to pursue a framework agreement 2.0. Rather, “there needs to be a different solution”.

The EU acknowledged receipt of the letter on Wednesday and indicated that it would review the proposals.

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