Relations between Switzerland and the EU – Former Federal Councilors and their views on current EU politics – News


There is an unwritten rule that former Federal Councilors do not comment on the day-to-day political business of their successors. Some have now broken the rule – for the SRF podcast series on Switzerland’s relationship with the EU.

For Arnold Koller, the former CVP Federal Councilor, the Federal Council’s decision to drop the framework agreement with the EU was “a great disappointment”. They negotiated with the EU for seven years and then “just threw down the beggar,” says Koller, who is now almost 90 years old.

I got really excited.

“I was really excited about the decision,” says former Federal Councilor Moritz Leuenberger. According to the former SP Federal Councilor, the outcome of the negotiations should at least have been submitted to Parliament. “You just got out without saying what you actually want.”


Moritz Leuenberger does not understand why the framework agreement was not presented to Parliament.


The Federal Council must move forward boldly

And Adolf Ogi, Bernese former Federal Councilor of the SVP, says that the state government has to move forward courageously on certain issues, maybe take a risk and then convince the people of it. “You should have gone before Parliament and the people with this framework agreement.”

You should have gone before the people with the framework agreement.

Even if the agreement had failed in the referendum, that would have been better for Arnold Koller. “A popular no would have been democratically legitimized, while a no from the Federal Council is simply nothing.”

It’s hard to get more

This is a remarkable statement by Koller. Because it also means that the Federal Council, with a parliamentary decision or a referendum behind it, could now appear much more clearly towards Brussels.

Switzerland cannot ask for more. Otherwise the EU would have to change its treaties.

In addition, the Federal Council has practically gotten the most out of the present framework agreement, says Koller. Since the EEA (European Economic Area) in the 1990s, we have known what is possible with regard to institutional issues: the European Court of Justice is responsible for EU law, and an arbitral tribunal for other issues.



For Arnold Koller, Switzerland missed an opportunity with the framework agreement. He is convinced that more cannot be gained from new negotiations.

Keystone/Urs Flüeler

“Switzerland cannot ask for more. Otherwise the EU would have to change its treaties,” says Koller. Switzerland will therefore have to accept an institutional solution in which the ECJ (European Court of Justice) plays an important role.

I would negotiate a contract – and now the Federal Council has to do it personally.

The current situation is muddled. So what now? “I would negotiate a contract – and now the Federal Council has to do it personally,” says Adolf Ogi. It is not enough to simply send state secretaries to Brussels.



Adolf Ogi makes the Federal Council responsible: it must now travel to Brussels itself to negotiate a new contract.


Former Federal Councilor Christoph Blocher sees this completely differently, as does Ogi, also from the SVP. In principle, the decisive factor is whether Switzerland is obliged by the agreement to adopt EU law and whether this can be enforced by the ECJ.

Even the EEA failed on this fundamental issue.

“If you can’t take that out of the contract, it’s basically lost,” emphasizes Ogi’s old opponent. That was already the case with the EEA. “He failed precisely because of this fundamental question.”



For Christoph Blocher, a framework agreement with the EU is out of the question if it provides for the automatic adoption of EU law for Switzerland.


He himself was prepared for a referendum on the framework agreement, says the SVP doyen. He was all the more surprised when the Federal Council pulled the plug on the agreement.

The agreement would have split Switzerland.

Former Federal Councilor Micheline Calmy-Rey is also pleased that there is no referendum on the framework agreement with the EU. She sat for the SP from 2003 to 2011 in the Federal Council.

“I understand that the Federal Council canceled the exercise. The agreement would have split Switzerland,” she says.



Micheline Calmy-Rey is happy that the Federal Council signed the framework agreement itself.


The survey of the former Federal Councilors shows that there are different points of view from which one can judge the Federal Council’s European policy.

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