The bilateral way has proven to be successful up to now and has ensured access for Swiss economic players to specific sectors of the EU internal market. The bilateral way has also been regularly supported by the people of Switzerland and the cantons, winning majorities in several referendums.
The Federal Council has now reaffirmed its determination to consolidate and further develop Switzerland’s bilateral approach to its relations with the European Union. Such a step would cement the achievements of the bilateral way. In addition, market access and legal security for Switzerland, its companies and citizens, would be strengthened and further developed in specific new areas.
This approach should be renewed on the basis of the key values shared by the EU and Switzerland that have been identified in recent weeks. A new institutional agreement would give due consideration to the intensity of Swiss-EU bilateral relations - with currently about 20 main agreements and more than 100 sector agreements. Problems concerning market access can only be settled through harmonisation of the relevant laws. The institutional renewal that the Federal Council envisages does not create a new situation; it merely shows the way ahead along the path that Switzerland has been treading for quite some time.
The renewal of the bilateral way requires solutions to be found on the institutional questions. This hinges on the following four points: the dynamic adjustment of the agreements on market access to developments in EU law, the supervision and the interpretation of the agreements, and the settlement of disputes. In June 2012, the Federal Council submitted its proposals to these points to the EU following consultations with the Foreign Affairs Committees, the cantons and the social partners. Informal discussions were then conducted with the EU on this basis led by the FDFA State Secretary, Yves Rossier, and the Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service (EEAS), David O’Sullivan.
These talks enabled several options to be identified that showed possible solutions from technical and legal perspectives. The Federal Council has now instructed the FDFA to create a draft negotiating mandate on the basis of one of these options by August 2013. This option is based on the idea that questions concerning the interpretation of those EU laws that Switzerland has adopted, or will adopt, are submitted to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In this context, it is very important that the functioning of Swiss institutions be respected, in particular those aspects concerning the principles of direct democracy and the country’s independence. The Federal Council therefore excludes any form of automatic adoption of EU law. Any adoption of new EU law into a bilateral agreement must be subject to a decision by Switzerland.
Because Switzerland is not an EU member state, a balance must be struck between the rights and duties of the parties. For this reason, supervision of the implementation of the agreements must remain within the competence of the national authorities. In any application of the institutional solutions to existing agreements, neither the area of application nor the objectives of the agreements may be changed.
Medium-term strategy of the policy on the EU
The Federal Council has also decided to approach the institutional questions in the framework of a medium-term strategy in three stages. This approach covers all the current dossiers on the EU. The first step covers entry into the institutional questions and the relevant decisions in accordance with the above-mentioned guidelines. The second step will cover in particular the continuation and conclusion of the negotiations on an electricity agreement, the start of the negotiations on Switzerland’s participation in the chemicals ordinance REACH, the launch and conclusion of the negotiations in the cooperation dossiers such as research and education as well as progress in the negotiations on the EU emissions trading system (ETS). The corresponding, but not yet fully completed mandates are expected to be adopted after the summer recess. The Federal Council will also be mindful to maintain parallelism between these dossiers and progress in the areas of taxation of savings income and corporate taxation as well as the current dialogue with the EU on these issues. In light of progress in all these negotiations, the Federal Council will decide on a possible renewal of the enlargement contribution to reduce the economic and social disparities in the enlarged European Union.
In a first step, the FDFA has been instructed to plan a summit meeting at the end of 2013 in collaboration with the EU. The summit would only be held if the milestones and their objectives set out in the framework of the medium-term strategy have been achieved.
The proposal for a negotiating mandate on institutional questions is scheduled to be presented to the Federal Council after the summer recess.
On this basis, the Foreign Affairs Committees, the cantons and the social partners will be consulted. The Federal Council will then make an analysis and reach a decision on the mandate. If it comes to negotiations, and if the negotiations were to be concluded, the resulting agreement would be presented to Parliament and to the people for their opinion.
The other negotiations with the EU are to be continued in parallel with the launch of the negotiations on the institutional questions.
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