Brussels, 15 November 2021
“Check against delivery”
Earlier today, I met Switzerland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis.
This was our first meeting, following the unilateral decision of the Federal Council back in spring to terminate the negotiations on an Institutional Framework Agreement with the EU.
Our discussion therefore focused on where we go from here, while restoring and strengthening a climate of trust. In this context, I conveyed two key messages.
First, EU-Swiss relations deserve better than a lack of prospects.
The EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner, while Switzerland is our fourth. And given our shared values, we are also strong political allies.
That is why the conclusion of an Institutional Agreement was a priority for the EU. An overarching framework, governing Swiss participation in the EU’s Single Market is crucial for its integrity, its functioning and its fairness.
So the European Union’s door remains open and our commitment to find concrete, reliable solutions that would strengthen our relationship is there. But – and this brings me to my second message – it takes two to tango.
What we now need from Switzerland is:
- the unambiguous political will to engage with us,
- on the real issues that count,
- and a credible timetable.
In other words, any political dialogue must be focused and substantial. It cannot be an empty shell.
Anyone operating on the EU’s Single Market must abide by the same rules and obligations. Therefore, we need to tackle the real, structural issues:
- the dynamic alignment with EU law,
- a level playing field between Switzerland and the EU,
- a functioning dispute settlement mechanism,
- but also Switzerland’s regular financial contribution to the EU cohesion policy for the future.
These were the points I made today.
We have agreed to intensify our political dialogue, within the parameters I just mentioned. Our common objective is to work on a roadmap on how to solve all the open structural issues in our bilateral relations.
We will meet again in Davos in the second half of January to assess the progress. By then, we will see whether a true political commitment is there.
So to conclude, let me reiterate that the EU is ready to invest in its relationship with Switzerland.
And once we receive a clear political signal from the Federal Council, we will answer with goodwill to find lasting, mutually beneficial solutions for the issues I mentioned. Because they are real issues, for our citizens and companies.