Switzerland and the EU have concluded around 120 bilateral agreements, 20 of which are considered of central importance, such as the agreement on the free movement of persons. On the one hand, these agreements create wide-ranging mutual access to markets; on the other, they provide the basis for close cooperation in important policy areas such as research, security, environment and culture. The agreements governing market access are as a rule based on existing EU law in which Switzerland has undertaken to enact equivalent provisions or to adopt existing EU law.
Institutional issues concern the following four areas:
- Legal developments: What procedures should be employed to adjust agreements to new legal developments in the EU «Acquis» that concern them?
- Supervision: How can a consistent supervision of the application of the bilateral agreements be ensured?
- Interpretation: How can the consistent interpretation of the bilateral agreements be ensured?
- Dispute settlement: What procedures should be used to settle disputes between Switzerland and the EU, and what body should be vested with decision-making powers in disputes between the two parties?
Switzerland and the EU are currently negotiating an agreement to ensure that current and future agreements on market access are applied more consistently and efficiently. The Federal Council adopted a negotiating mandate on 18 December 2013; the Council of the EU adopted its mandate on 6 May 2014. 15 negotiation meetings have taken place since May 2014. The Federal Council wants an agreement that ensures legal certainty in the area of market access and preserves Switzerland’s independence and legal system. The negotiations have made good progress, but the agreement has not yet been concluded. Outstanding issues of the negotiations include dispute settlement as well as potential consequences of unsolved disputes. These negotiations have their own dynamic and their own rhythm: there is no legal relationship with the issue of free movement of persons.