Jilted EU issues angry statement after Swiss walks out of talks with Brussels
Switzerland’s ‘special relationship’ with the EU explained
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The Swiss federal council said it pulled the plug on its talks with Brussels, claiming “substantial differences” between the two sides had made the wrangling untenable. Brussels hinted at almost instant retaliation, suggesting there would be inevitable deterioration in their co-operation. In a fiery statement, the European Commission said: “We regret this decision, given the progress that has been made over the last years to make the Institutional Framework Agreement a reality.
“The EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement was intended as the foundation to enhance and develop EU-Swiss bilateral relations for the future. Its core purpose was to ensure that anyone operating in the EU Single Market, to which Switzerland has significant access, faces the same conditions.
“That is fundamentally a matter of fairness and legal certainty. Privileged access to the Single Market must mean abiding by the same rules and obligations.
“This is why, back in 2019, the EU insisted that this agreement was so essential for the conclusion of possible future agreements regarding Swiss further participation to the Single Market, and also an essential element for deciding upon further progress towards mutually beneficial market access.
“This agreement would have allowed for a consolidation of the bilateral approach and ensured its sustainability and further development.
“Without this agreement, this modernisation of our relationship will not be possible and our bilateral agreements will inevitably age: 50 years have passed since the entry into force of the Free Trade Agreement, 20 years since the bilateral I and II agreements.
“Already today, they are not up to speed for what the EU and Swiss relationship should and could be.”
EU-Swiss relations have been fractious for many years with their partnership based on a series of mini deals.
Bern and Brussels had been working on a special “framework agreement” to enhance their relationship.
After investing hundreds of hours into the wrangling dating back to May 2014, Switzerland eventually walked out of the talks because of concerns the pact would cede too much of its sovereignty to the bloc.
The current relationship, which is made up of around 120 separate deals, dates back to the 1970s.
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Brussels has long wanted to compact the partnership into a single over-arching pact.
After Brexit, eurocrats insisted that the bloc’s negotiating stance should remain hardline because of similar fears that the Swiss model would enable Britain to cherry-pick access to the single market.
In a statement, Swiss ministers said the country remained committed to the “bilateral path” in the two sides’ relationship.
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They called for a “structured political dialogue to reinforced our co-operation”.
Switzerland is the EU’s fourth-largest trading partner in goods, and third-biggest in services.
At a news conference, Swiss president Guy Parmelin said the pair were “starting a new chapter” in their relationship, “which we hope will be fruitful”.
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