Swiss president sees no quick progress in EU treaty row

Swiss President Ueli Maurer at the Lentos Art Museum for a German speaking head of state meeting in Linz, Austria, 04 June 2019. [Christian Bruna/EPA]

Swiss President Ueli Maurer played down prospects for quickly ending a standoff with the European Union over a stalled partnership treaty that has disrupted cross-border stock trading and strained ties with Switzerland’s main trading partner.

Maurer, a member of the right-wing and EU-sceptical Swiss People’s Party, suggested no deal was likely before the current European Commission’s term expires at the end of October.

“In my view, it’s not enough (time),” he told broadcaster SRF in an interview aired on Wednesday (31 July).

“It does not matter whether it is the autumn or next spring. We have time and we also need time so that we really have something that we can explain, we understand and that serves (the interests of) Switzerland,” he said.

Brussels blocked EU-based investors from trading on Swiss bourses from July 1 as the row escalated over the treaty, which would see non-EU member Switzerland routinely adopt EU single market rules.

The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading.

Swiss ready to retaliate against EU over stock market access

The Swiss government said on Monday (24 June) it was ready to ban stock exchanges in the European Union from trading Swiss shares — intensifying a row over a stalled partnership treaty.

Swiss stock volumes have soared this month to their highest in years as the ban forced market participants onto the domestic exchange.

The fall-out from the dispute is being closely watched in Britain as a test case for how EU shares may be traded in London after the country leaves the bloc.

If no Swiss-EU treaty deal emerges while Jean-Claude Juncker is still Commission president, Maurer may end up dealing with designated Commission President and former German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen.

She knows Maurer from his days as Swiss defence minister before he took over the finance ministry. But Maurer, who holds the revolving Swiss presidency this year, dismissed suggestions that his ties to his former German counterpart could help break the logjam.

“Negotiations will not be any easier, personally it may loosen up a bit,” he said.

Maurer’s pessimism adds to the impression that the political impasse is unlikely to break soon.

In Bern, resistance to the treaty -Switzerland’s top foreign policy issue by far- ranges from the normally pro-Europe centre-left to the stridently anti-EU far-right, which both see the danger of the pact’s infringing Swiss sovereignty.

Two-thirds of Swiss companies want treaty with EU

Two out of three Swiss companies want Switzerland to sign a draft treaty negotiated with the European Union, a poll for business lobby Economiesuisse found, highlighting the country’s political divide over its biggest foreign policy decision.

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