Unstable relations with Switzerland are harmful to EU, says president

Ignazio Cassis, left, meets Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the EU Commission, for bilateral talks on November 15, 2021. Keystone

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis has warned that unstable relations are not a long-term solution, either for Switzerland or the European Union.

This content was published on February 6, 2022 minutes

In an interview published in the SonntagsZeitung paper on Sunday, Cassis stressed that both sides have an interest in stable relations. Around 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland, which is also the EU's fourth largest trading partner. 

"Unstable relations are not a long-term solution, either for us or for the EU," said the president and foreign minister. 

He acknowledged that the EU is trying to exert pressure on Switzerland by creating political ties and said that Switzerland must resist this pressure.

"We cannot simply abandon our principles, take wage protection and immigration lightly and put social harmony at risk," he said. 

An example Cassis used to illustrate the pressure exerted by the EU is discrimination in the fields of research and medical technology. In this way, the EU is also harming its own citizens, for example by reducing the choice of products in the field of medical technology, but also weakening the European research cluster, the Minister added.

Broader approach

In planning its future relationship with the EU, Cassis wants Switzerland to move away from "purely technical and institutional issues”.

"Only when we have enriched the content, when politics and society recognise the material gains that Switzerland can expect, will an institutional rapprochement be accepted," he said.

According to Cassis, there are many such opportunities to deepen relations with the EU, for example in the areas of health, research, media or culture. The government is also listening to the ideas and proposals of civil society, he said. He referred to two roundtable sessions, including one held this week, where different points of view were discussed.

However, differences on how to move ahead with the relationship with the EU remain significant, said Cassis. He added that "if this were not the case, we would probably have solved the problem long ago".

Last May, Switzerland decided to walk away from lengthy negotiations on an overarching institutional agreement with the EU to establish a new set of rules governing future bilateral relations.

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