Switzerland still wants a new trade agreement with EU

Photo by Carol Jeng on Unsplash

 Switzerland wants to renegotiate with the European Union to address deadlocks in the trade agreement. The renewed initiative follows the Swiss government's rejection of an earlier negotiating agreement in 2021. Bern is now calling for urgency to prevent negotiations from stalling under a new European Commission that will take office at the end of this year.

The Swiss government has expressed its support for resuming talks. This move is intended to give new impetus to relations between Switzerland and the EU. Switzerland says unrestricted mutual access to the EU market is the cornerstone of the plan.

As a non-EU country, Switzerland has many forms of cooperation with the European Union. For example, it is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) where Brussels has all kinds of trade contracts with other European non-EU countries. Switzerland does follow most European rules on food, climate, environment and trade. This construction means that agricultural policy has not been 'transferred', but the Swiss parliament still has a lot to say about it itself. As a result, angry Swiss farmers cannot always portray Brussels as the major culprit.

Three years ago, Brussels updated all such treaties to include the latest EU standards, not only on the environment and climate or agriculture and food, but also for matters such as labor rights, minimum wage and waste and packaging.

Wealthy, neutral Switzerland has long experienced strong resistance from political parties, unions and industries to closer integration with the EU. Advocates say the country cannot expect to simply benefit without making concessions itself. 

The tricky point at the time was that (Swiss) companies were not allowed to ban foreign EU workers to protect their own employment. 

The rejection of the negotiating agreement three years ago has led to somewhat tense relations between Brussels and Bernl. Switzerland was afraid that the people would reject it in a referendum. Switzerland's initiative to resume negotiations with the EU is widely supported this time, according to recent polls. 

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has announced that negotiations with the EU will begin this month. The plan is for Federal President Viola Amherd to travel to Brussels in mid-March. Together with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, she should open the talks that will finally bring the long-awaited end to the relationship crisis between Switzerland and the EU.