Switzerland-EU relations: Federal Council sets priorities and agenda

Press release, 28.06.2017

At its meeting on 28 June 2017, the Federal Council set out its priorities for Switzerland's relationship with the European Union. It acknowledged the social and economic importance of the bilateral path, which allows the country to prosper while maintaining its independence. The government reiterated its intention to maintain and build on this relationship, particularly in regard to market access. It plans to assess the situation in the next few months based on the tangible outcomes obtained following the resumption of talks on outstanding dossiers. To this end it has scheduled a number of phases for next autumn.

The Federal Council confirmed in its meeting that it wishes to build on the bilateral approach with the European Union. The bilateral path is largely responsible for the fact that trade between Switzerland and the EU has grown to such an extent that the EU is now Switzerland’s main trading partner. The EU's trade with Switzerland currently equals half the value of its trade with China and almost twice that of its trade with Turkey.

The Federal Council believes that the bilateral approach should be maintained for political, economic and social reasons: political because the bilateral path is the approach voted for and supported by the people, several times, and because it allows the country to prosper while retaining our independence; economic and social because of the investments and jobs it brings and the funding stability of our social insurance schemes.

Institutional matters and a new contribution to cohesion

Regarding the agreements on market access, efforts to maintain and develop the bilateral approach will require clarification of the institutional rules of operation. The Federal Council has reviewed the ongoing negotiations in this regard on the basis of the mandate approved in December 2013. It noted that there were still several important areas to be negotiated, particularly in regard to the precise scope of the law subject to the dispute settlement procedure, the matter of state aid and some aspects concerning the free movement of persons.

The Federal Council also looked into the resumption of all outstanding dossiers between Switzerland and the EU that are of mutual interest. It believes that the recommencement of talks in several areas should produce results and a series of agreements over the coming months.

Furthermore, the Federal Council discussed the question of a new contribution to cohesion as a way of participating in efforts to reduce social and economic disparities in EU countries. It decided to align its preparatory work with more specific objectives than for the first such contribution. It defined two priority areas in this respect: vocational education and training and migration. Other areas of added value for Switzerland may also be addressed in projects for these countries. However, the question of this autonomous contribution to cohesion will be examined in due course as part of an appraisal of all EU dossiers.
 
Several assessment phases planned for autumn

The Federal Council decided to carry out such a general appraisal of the progress in these dossiers at the beginning of autumn. Depending on the outcome of this, it will reassess the appropriateness of continuing its groundwork for a new contribution, among other things.

The Federal Council then expects a high-level meeting to be held between Switzerland and the European Union. Its main objectives for such a meeting are the signing of the dossiers ready for completion and a general appraisal of the status of negotiations on open dossiers.

In the weeks following this meeting, and based on all facts known at that time, the Federal Council intends to devote another session to European policy.


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