The new leadership of the Swiss labour union has said ‘no’ to a draft treaty with the European Union and called for re-launching talks with the country’s most significant trade partner. The rejection further underlines the difficulty of implementing a deal that the EU has been calling for at least for ten years and that has taken more than four years to talk through. “This text is dead,” Pierre-Yves Maillard, the head of the Swiss Social Democratic Party, told the media.
Stressing that his party could never accept “diluting Swiss rules that protect Europe’s highest wages from cross-border competition or subjecting the rules to EU judges’ review”, Mr. Millard concluded that “ultimately there is no way around fresh negotiations.” Bern has been in talks with its domestic stakeholders for months in an attempt to unblock the stalled treaty with the EU, which would have non-member Switzerland adhere to the rules of the EU single market and have EU nationals have the same rights as in the bloc. However, the outcome is uncertain as the deal faces opposition from all sides of the Swiss political spectrum. Opponents fear that the agreement would infringe too much on Swiss sovereignty.
Swiss-EU relations are currently governed by around 120 sector-specific agreements. They are staying in place until both sides find a common ground and agree on one unified deal. The EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner and Switzerland is the EU’s third largest trading partner after the United States and China. The Swiss account for 5.2% of the EU’s imports – chemicals, machinery, instruments, medical products and time pieces.