European Commission’s outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker has been urging Bern to conclude the treaty with EU before he steps down on October 31. Juncker would be replaced by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Swiss officials have a different take on the scenario and don’t see the deal happening before the start of 2020. Bern said that it needs more time to gather enough consensus from the representative of Swiss unions, employers’ associations, and cantons to go ahead with the trade agreement.
Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, “We want a good solution that can win majority support, and that is not the case at the moment.”
Parmelin, who is a member of the right-wing and euroskeptic Swiss People’s Party, added, “I don’t think we can wrap up this year. Our agenda and that of the EU allow a conclusion only next year at the earliest.”
Parmelin highlighted the reasons for putting things on hold with EU as elections in Switzerland in October, the appointment of a new European Commission team with the replacement of its president and the country’s referendum on restricting the free movement of EU citizens, due next year.
The delay in the treaty is likely to escalate the crisis between the European Union and Switzerland, which effected their bilateral ties and even led to the disruption of trading between the two.
In an interview, Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis told Blick newspaper that an agreement with the Commission would need a ‘miracle’, while things could change with the change in tone of EU with the new head.
The standoff between the two started when Brussels blocked EU-based investors from trading on Swiss exchange on July 1. The Swiss opposed and retaliated in a similar tone by withdrawing recognition for EU trading venues, prohibiting them from holding Swiss stock trading.
Swiss government issued a statement which said, “Activating the protective measure with regard to trading venues in the EU serves solely to protect the functioning of the Swiss stock exchange infrastructure.”
After trading, the EU now threatened to ban Swiss research institutions from carrying on research programmes in EU member nations, in case of no-deal.
Swiss officials said that things could change with the change in the ‘tone’ and ‘dogmatic’ attitude of EU. In the meantime, not succumbing to EU’s threats, Bern decided to move towards the UK after Brexit, increasing its research programs in London.
Parmelin said, “I think the EU would weaken itself, it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research.
The key reason of dispute was that Brussels wanted to incorporate about 120 bilateral treaties in the name of ‘institutional framework’, which would require Switzerland to automatically follow some EU laws, a proposal which Bern rejects. Also, Switzerland, a non-EU nation was asked to follow EU single market rules.