Switzerland’s intention to seal a new deal with the European Union is unexpectedly facing obstacles after the normally pro-Europe center-left joined forces with the far right parties in opposing a treaty that could undermine wages and working conditions. The Swiss government’s efforts to potentially tweak the country’s strict rules that protect Europe’s highest wages were a bit too much for the treaty demands proposed by Brussels. The far-right party – Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – is generally against any treaty, which it sees as infringing Swiss sovereignty.
Relations between the EU and Switzerland are currently governed by more than 100 independent deals. Brussels would like to supersede them with one treaty to create a more streamlined platform for engagement and cooperation. The EU wants to also make sure that Switzerland will implement the rules of the single market as some Swiss worry that the treaty could make it easier to bring in workers from the bloc and undercut Swiss wages. The European Commission commented, through a spokesperson, that “we remain ready to continue the negotiations in good faith and it will not be easy to reach an agreement. For the EU, it is, however, very clear that those who want to do business in our internal market need to comply with the rules”.
However, a failure to find the common ground would further worsen the mutual ties and could prompt punitive measures. The EU Commission wants to make a progress on the deal before it renews permission for Swiss and European equity traders to access each other’s markets after 2018. A draft deal was intended by the end of this year but according to Gerhard Pfister, head of the centre-right Christian People’s Party in the four-party government coalition, “a treaty seems further away than ever”. Mr. Pfister commented that the end of 2018 seemed unlikely and improbable even in 2019.