Switzerland would like to finalize a deal with the European Union governing the mutual relations in 2019, once again postponing an accord that should have been clinched this year. Last month, the four-year negotiations failed to bring a tangible outcome as the EU is trying to relax rules that protect high Swiss wages against cross-border competition. The negotiations were especially tough given the Brexit, with Brussels being reluctant to soften its position not to provide bargaining chips to Brexiteers.
The Swiss government is to discuss the situation this upcoming Friday (30 November) amidst general scepticism in the cabinet. The Swiss have generally been struggling with the treaty talks, which ran aground because of opposition from the typically pro-EU centre left as well as the anti-EU far rights parties. Unlike Britain, Swiss-EU relations are governed by a web of 120 sectoral deals that will remain in effect even if no overarching deal is made. Yet, Brussels would like to see such a treaty, atop of all the individual accords, as this would provide a more effective tool to resolve disputes.
Besides a dispute resolution mechanism, an overarching agreement would target five core areas: free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods. “Negotiate with me, wrap it up with me,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose term ends next year, said in September. If a deal was not done soon, “it could really get bad”, he added. “The ball is now in the Swiss court,” a Commission spokesman said earlier this week, adding that no more talks were being planned.