Most Swiss citizens support their government’s plan to come up with a new treaty with the European Union that would have arbitration panels to help settle disputes. The survey is significant because under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy Swiss voters get the final say on a treaty that officials hope to agree with. Bilateral ties between the EU and Switzerland are governed by multiple accords.
54% of Swiss respondents in the survey conducted by the polling institute GfS Bern supported the plan to have arbitration courts comprising of representatives from Switzerland, the EU, and a neutral party to resolve disputes. Even supporters of the far-right Swiss People’s Party, which opposes any new treaty, was in favor of this approach. 35% of the respondents backed the current system in which a major joint Swiss-EU Commission is supposed to come up with compromises when it comes to addressing disputes. Only 4% wanted the EU’s European Court of Justice to be the final arbiter of disputes, although the ECJ is envisioned to rule on matters that have something to do with EU legislation.
Bern has recently revived its plans to contribute an extra 1.3 billion Swiss francs for newer EU members as relations with the EU started improving after some deterioration last year. Officials say the mood has brightened since Bern laid out its negotiating position on the new treaty Brussels hopes to use to formalize ties. The treaty would see Switzerland adopt EU laws governing the single market, with the ECJ judging on disputes on how to interpret single-market rules. The treaty with the EU is opposed by the anti-immigrant People’s Party, the largest in the Swiss Parliament. The opponents are generally against the giving of the judicial power to “foreign judges” so the idea of arbitration panels, which were first suggested by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker late last year, could help break the impasse.