On the 14th of July 2012, after five years, the commitment period of Switzerland’s EU enlargement contribution comes to an end. During this period, Switzerland appraised and approved together with the new EU-countries from Central and Eastern Europe 210 projects, which are now being implemented with the financial support of Switzerland until the end of 2017.
Swiss interests - How does Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement benefit Switzerland?
Switzerland's enlargement Contribution is Switzerland’s contribution to a secure, stable, prosperous and democratic European continent. It is an important part of Swiss foreign policy in Europe and enhances Switzerland’s image abroad.
Strengthens relations with the EU
Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement consolidates bilateral relations not only between Switzerland and the new EU member states, but also between Switzerland and the EU as a whole. The implementation of existing bilateral agreements and the negotiation of new agreements is not always an easy matter. Indeed, both sides must be ready to find compromise solutions. The success of Switzerland’s efforts to defend its interests in Europe also depends on its ability to project itself as a partner aware of its responsibilities and ready to share the cost of Europe’s development. Good relations and cooperation with the EU is crucial, since about a third of every franc earned by Swiss entrepreneurs comes from trade with the 27 EU states.
With its enlargement contribution, Switzerland establishes advisory and institutional partnerships between government authorities, non-profit organisations, trade associations, interest groups and social partners from Switzerland and partner countries. This cooperation encourages the exchange of knowledge and experiences, and strengthens Switzerland’s local presence.
Opportunities for the Swiss economy
1) EU enlargement has brought many benefits to Switzerland and offers considerable export and investment opportunities. Despite the decline in economic growth following the financial and economic crisis in 2009, the debt crisis in the EU region and the strong appreciation of the Swiss franc, in 2012 Switzerland exported goods worth CHF 6.8 billion to the twelve youngest EU member states. Swiss direct investments in these have more than doubled following the first eastward enlargement 2004. They amount to approximately 20 billion Swiss francs.
The Swiss economy in general benefits from the development of Eastern Europe’s growth markets. In the next few years these countries will work hard to close the enormous gap, e.g. through the development of infrastructure with the help of EU financial assistance. Rapidly growing purchasing power makes these countries interesting markets of the future for Switzerland’s export industries, notably machine manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and the financial services sector. This directly helps to preserve existing employment and create new jobs in Switzerland.
2) Switzerland’s enlargement contribution improves visibility and thereby also the opportunities that Swiss entrepreneurs have to take part in public calls for tender, particularly those issued through EU Structural Funds and the EU Cohesion Fund. Over the past years, various smaller and larger Swiss enterprises have received contracts from EU-financed projects either directly or indirectly. A recent survey revealed that small and large Swiss enterprises have received 342 contracts worth around CHF 909 million from EU-funded projects in the twelve newest EU countries in recent years. However, the actual contracts placed with Swiss firms from EU funds are likely to be well in excess of this amount. No detailed statistical data is available, however, since Swiss enterprises are not obliged to provide the Confederation with any information on the orders they have received.
3) Switzerland has delegated some of the assessment and implemenation of projects to Swiss companies, consultants, universities, organisations and assocations. At the end of 2012, the total value of these mandates stood at approximately CHF 70 million. Project implementation will lead to numerous calls for tender which will also be open to Swiss companies.
Reduces both the pressure to emigrate and security risks
Concrete projects will improve living conditions in these countries and lead to greater security and stability in the region. Social tensions and migration pressures are eased. Poverty and weak state institutions, phenomena that are still common in Europe’s peripheral regions, add up to political risks that affect Switzerland directly in a number of ways including illegal migration and cross-border criminal activities.
Environmental pollution does not stop at the border. Swiss-financed projects will help to clean up contaminated sites, improve the quality of air and water, and conserve species diversity.