Federal Council approves draft negotiating mandate with European Union
Bern, 15.12.2023 - At its meeting on 15 December, the Federal Council approved the draft negotiating mandate with the European Union (EU). The mandate sets out guidelines for the negotiations, which will get under way once the mandate is definitively adopted, after consultation with Parliament and the cantons.
The draft negotiating mandate is based on the parameters approved by the Federal Council on 21 June this year, as well as the outcomes of the exploratory talks with the EU and the discussions held with social and economic partners in Switzerland. It sets out the guidelines to be followed by the Swiss delegation in each component of the negotiating package.
The FDFA has been instructed to conduct consultations on this document with the Foreign Affairs Committees and the cantons, in collaboration with the FDHA, the FDJP, the FDF, the EAER and DETEC. The social and economic partners will be invited to comment.
In addition, the Federal Council adopted the report on the exploratory talks. The report sets out the objective of the talks, details the outcomes, and reports on the internal process that is already taking place in Switzerland and will continue until the end of the talks with the EU.
The Federal Council's primary objective is to consolidate and further develop the bilateral path with the EU. To this end, on 25 February 2022, the federal government decided to adopt a comprehensive approach based on a package of cooperation and market access agreements. Compared with the institutional agreement – which the Federal Council terminated in 2021 – the package allows greater flexibility and scope for action to safeguard Switzerland's interests during the negotiations.
Barrier-free access to the EU market is the cornerstone of the package, which seeks to update existing agreements on the single market and to conclude new sectoral agreements in electricity and food safety. These agreements will provide Switzerland with lasting access to its largest export market and allow it to develop partnerships in key areas. Within this framework, there are also exceptions to safeguard Switzerland's vital interests. The institutional issues will be regulated directly in the single market agreements. The package also provides for the adoption of state aid rules in the agreements on air transport, overland transport and electricity.
In addition, the package envisages a cooperation agreement on health and systematic participation in EU programmes, particularly in education and research (like Horizon Europe and Erasmus+). Finally, it includes a regular Swiss contribution towards greater cohesion within the EU.
Outcome of exploratory talks and negotiating framework
The exploratory talks started in March 2022 and were concluded at the end of October 2023. The outcomes are recorded in a technical document that sets out the areas of common understanding defined by the Swiss and EU delegations during the exploratory talks in each area of the package.
The common understanding reflects the outcomes of the exploratory process. The solutions it outlines will provide Switzerland and the EU with a conducive framework in which to embark on the negotiations. These solutions will need to be fleshed out and other solutions will need to be found for the outstanding issues.
In this context, the Federal Council has also decided to pursue domestic discussions with the partners concerned on wage protection, electricity and overland transport.
The negotiating mandate defines the goals that the Federal Council has set itself. Once the negotiations are over, the federal government will weigh up the benefits and disadvantages.
The Federal Council thinks the outcome of the exploratory talks constitutes a solid and balanced basis on which to start the negotiations. For example, it was possible to find potential solutions to a number of obstacles that emerged during the talks on the institutional agreement in 2021, in particular regarding the free movement of persons. The issue of state aid was also clarified. However, there are still some pending issues that will need to be addressed during the negotiations.
Eleven rounds of exploratory talks and 46 technical discussions with the EU within the framework of regular contact at political level allowed potential solutions to be defined for all components of the package.
Composition of Swiss delegation
The Federal Council also set out the composition of the Swiss delegation that will negotiate the various areas of the package with the EU. Patric Franzen, deputy state secretary and head of the FDFA's Europe Division, will take on the overall operational lead of the negotiations and will act as chief negotiator. He will perform this task in collaboration with negotiators from the departments responsible for the different areas of the package. The negotiations will be conducted simultaneously in each area and will start once the mandate has been definitively approved by Switzerland and once the EU has also adopted its own negotiating mandate.
Address for enquiries
For further information:
Tel. Press service +41 460 55 55
The Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research
General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC