Swiss government resumes talks with EU on stalled treaty

Tourists and paragliders enjoy a sunny autumn weather day in front of Swiss Alps mountains during the second wave pf the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Charmey, Fribourg, Switzerland, 31 October 2020. [Laurent Gillieron/EPA/EFE]

Switzerland is to resume talks with the European Union over a wide-ranging bilateral treaty, including on issues such as protecting workers’ rights and wages, that have lain dormant for two years.

The cabinet determined its position at a meeting on Wednesday (11 November), a government spokesman told a news conference.

He said Bern would soon share its stance with Brussels but he would not comment on whether it had already sent a letter, nor give any details.

The government has said in the past it wanted clarifications on state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss welfare benefits and unilateral Swiss rules designed to protect high wages from competition by cross-border workers on temporary assignments.

The treaty would formalise ties focused on five areas – free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods. Switzerland would agree to take on EU single market rules in these areas.

Bern has kept the treaty on the back burner while it fought a bid by domestic eurosceptics’ to curb immigration from the EU, an idea voters shot down in a September referendum.

Swiss voters refuse immigration cuts, EU sees ‘great future’ in relationship

Swiss voters on Sunday (27 September) rejected a bid to slash immigration from the EU, leaving free movement in the heart of Europe intact, and embraced offering paid paternity leave for the first time.

But it has also struggled to forge domestic consensus on the pact, which critics say infringes so much on Swiss sovereignty that it would never win a referendum practically sure to arise under the Swiss system of direct democracy.

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