Relationship with the EU – the Federal Council does not want a “framework agreement 2.0” – News

Eight months have passed since the negotiations for a framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU were broken off. So far, the Federal Council has found it difficult to identify alternatives. Meanwhile, the pressure from Brussels is increasing.

May 26, 2021: At the same time as the negotiations were broken off, the Federal Council announced that it was in the common interest of Switzerland and the EU to “secure the tried-and-tested bilateral cooperation and to consistently continue the existing agreements”. The Department of Justice is instructed to examine how the bilateral relationship “could be stabilized with possible autonomous adjustments in national law”.

June 2021: EU Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel gives the go-ahead for the EU research program Horizon Europe. It also becomes known which states will benefit from a transitional agreement, since the negotiations for association are not yet complete. Switzerland is not one of them.

June 4, 2021: The Federal Council is submitting a message to Parliament on unblocking the cohesion billion. The message is to be dealt with by Parliament in the autumn session. In principle, the councils had already approved the money, but attached conditions to the payment. These conditions are now to be deleted.

June 20, 2021: Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis does not rule out the possibility that once negotiations on a framework agreement have been broken off, Switzerland could once again talk to the EU about institutional issues. Should that happen, Switzerland must make it clear from the start what is working and what is not, says Cassis in an interview with the “SonntagsZeitung”.

July 20, 2021: Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn and EU Foreign Policy Representative Josep Borrell are meeting in Brussels for informal talks. Despite the tense relations between Switzerland and the EU, the participants expressed themselves in a particularly friendly manner.

September 17, 2021: According to the Federal Council, negotiations with the EU on Switzerland’s participation in the Horizon research program are “currently not possible”. That’s why Swiss researchers need interim solutions. The National Fund, for example, is to step into the breach.

September 17, 2021: State Secretary Livia Leu is making a working visit to Brussels for the first time since the framework agreement failed. The EU is interested in a dialogue, summed up the State Secretary. “It’s not a time of closed doors.”

September 21, 2021: The Slovak Maros Sefcovic, EU Vice President, is now responsible for the Switzerland dossier – and immediately caused a stir with offensive statements. Switzerland should not only transfer the planned cohesion contribution to the EU, but also pay additional money. It is important that Switzerland pays off its debts in exchange for its participation in the internal market.

September 30, 2021: The National Council and the Council of States decide to pay out the cohesion contribution of CHF 1.3 billion that has been outstanding for two years to the EU. The Federal Council can now act accordingly and hope for a positive sign from the EU.

October 20, 2021: Because Swiss researchers are excluded from part of the Horizon Europe program and do not receive any money from the European Commission, the federal government is stepping into the breach. A good CHF 400 million will be made available for 2021.

November 15, 2021: Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis and Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the EU Commission, reaffirm their willingness to work together after a meeting in Brussels. Cassis speaks of an agenda that they now want to develop together by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in mid-January 2022. Sefcovic makes it clear that time is of the essence and that the EU is not prepared to wait until 2024.

November 17, 2021: The day after the meeting with Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis, Maros Sefcovic called for a clear political signal that Switzerland is serious. After the talks about a framework agreement were abruptly broken off, there was a problem of trust, he says in an interview with the Tamedia newspapers.

November 19, 2021: According to Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, the newly launched talks between Switzerland and the EU are about first defining a common agenda. In an interview with the Tamedia newspapers, Cassis said that Switzerland would not allow itself to be put under pressure by the EU.

November 24, 2021: Switzerland should clarify internally which relations it wants with the EU and at what price. This is what Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said at the Europa Forum Lucerne. Switzerland should not give the EU any ill-considered answers and should not allow itself to be put under time pressure.

December 1, 2021: The EU is still unwilling to update the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (MRA) and thus grant the Swiss medical technology (medtech) sector privileged market access again. Discussions in the Joint Committee on the MRA between Switzerland and the EU do not bring a solution.

December 3, 2021: France does not want to discuss Switzerland during its six-month presidency of the EU Council. Switzerland must be aware “that we have a problem,” says Frédéric Journès, French ambassador to Switzerland, in an interview with the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”. Just because Switzerland broke off negotiations on a framework agreement, the issues that were supposed to be dealt with did not disappear.

December 11, 2021: The outgoing head of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Mario Gattiker, will take on tasks in the Europe dossier. He is commissioned by the Federal Council to continue the analysis of the differences between the regulations in Switzerland and the EU.

January 2, 2022: Federal President Ignazio Cassis signaled a concession to the EU. “But we will not meet all the demands,” he says to the “SonntagsBlick”.

January 12, 2022: The Federal Council is holding another debate on how to proceed in the relationship between Switzerland and the EU. According to President Ignazio Cassis, he commissioned “the preparation of this so-called agenda for Switzerland”.

January 23, 2022: Representatives from business and research call for immediate damage limitation for the universities. According to a statement, the Federal Council must do everything possible to achieve full connection to the EU research program Horizon by the end of the year.

January 31, 2022: Secretary of State Martina Hirayama makes an appeal to the EU. In an interview with the Tamedia newspapers, Brussels should not link institutional issues and research cooperation.

February 2, 2022: The EU Commission adopts the draft of the basic agreement on the Swiss cohesion billion. Before it can be definitively signed, the EU states still have to agree on this “Memorandum of Understanding” (MoU).

February 6, 2022: According to Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, when planning future relations with the EU, Switzerland must move away from purely “technical and institutional issues”. Instead, the focus must be on the content, he says in an interview with the “SonntagsZeitung”. It now needs “a little rest and some creativity”.

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