Swiss-EU relations: strengthening the bilateral approach through negotiations on institutional issues

Bern, 18.12.2013 - Today the Federal Council adopted the mandate for negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union on institutional matters. With this mandate the Federal Council wishes to reconfirm and strengthen its commitment to the bilateral approach, and so guarantee Switzerland's continued prosperity and independence. Once the EU has adopted its own mandate, negotiations will be able to begin. Institutional issues are an important part of the Federal Council's medium-term strategy, which encompasses all of the current European policy negotiations. The Federal Council has designated the State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) as coordinator of these dossiers. He will lead the coordination group that will bring together the representatives of all departments concerned.

For the Federal Council the bilateral approach, with its 120 or so agreements, is the best policy instrument for Switzerland to safeguard its interests with regard to the EU – its most important trading partner by far. The bilateral approach also guarantees access to the EU's internal market for Swiss economic actors in a number of sectors. The Federal Council has repeatedly confirmed that it is convinced this is, and will continue to be, the best way for Switzerland to be able to defend its interests.

If Switzerland wants to protect what it has achieved so far, then a renewal of the bilateral approach is required, on condition that the independence and prosperity of Switzerland are preserved. A new institutional agreement would take into account the close bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU.

Consultation of the foreign affairs committees and the cantons
In accordance with legal requirements, the Federal Council had sent a draft mandate to the foreign affairs committees of the National Council and the Council of States, as well as to the cantons, for consultation. Their positions confirmed the mandate and enabled several specific points to be included. The solution chosen by the Federal Council dispenses with the creation of any new supranational institutions and guarantees not only uniform application of current law but also the independence of Switzerland as a non-EU member.

The chosen solution contains no automatic adoption of EU law. Switzerland must have the option of deciding, subject to all national processes (such as a referendum), whether to adopt any new EU legislation by means of a bilateral agreement. Finally, no future institutional agreement may change either the aims or objectives or the scope of application of the agreements between Switzerland and the EU. For example, with the agreement on the free movement of persons there will be no adoption of the EU directive on EU citizenship. It will be ensured that Switzerland can maintain the full accompanying measures to the free movement of persons agreement.

Questions regarding the interpretation of EU legislation forming part of a bilateral agreement may be brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEC) by Switzerland or by the EU as and when required. The CJEC's interpretation of EU law is binding. Differences will be settled amicably on this basis by the two parties. If agreement cannot be reached, appropriate compensatory measures, up to and including the partial or full suspension of the corresponding bilateral agreement, may be taken.

Medium-term strategy
Alongside an agreement on the institutional issues, the medium-term strategy of the Federal Council with the EU also includes the completion of ongoing negotiations concerning electricity market access and in the areas of agriculture and food security, the completion of cooperation agreements for example on Galileo/EGNOS and the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the fiscal dossiers on company taxation and the taxation of savings by the cantons, and participation agreements in the areas of education/research and MEDIA.

In its meeting today the Federal Council, in view of the consultation results, therefore adopted the mandate for the renegotiations of the bilateral agreement on the taxation of savings and sent a draft mandate concerning Swiss participation in the EU's cultural programme for 2014-2020 to the foreign affairs committees and the cantons for consultation.

The overall coordination of negotiations is ensured by a coordination group, led by a coordinator, State Secretary Yves Rossier. The Federal Council will adopt a parallel approach to all these dossiers and progress in the area of company taxation. In light of progress in all of these negotiations, the Federal Council will decide on any renewal of the enlargement contribution to the reduction of economic and social disparities within the EU.

Address for enquiries

Jean-Marc Crevoisier
FDFA Information
079 / 763 84 10


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs