An internal EU commission letter says that without a framework agreement Swiss-EU agreements granting access to the EU single market will only be changed if it is in the EU’s interest, according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and the Keystone-SDA news agency.
The letter dated 10 January 2019 and signed by Martin Selmayr, Secretary General of the EU Commission, calls on officials not to start any new negotiations with Switzerland on its bilateral agreements, which include those on the free movement of people and trade.
The letter states that ongoing discussions or negotiations should be suspended or delayed until a satisfactory result on the framework agreement is reached. Only where it is in the overriding interest of the EU or where there is a legal obligation will exceptions be made.
The letter confirms suspicions that were raised when EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn told a press gathering in December 2018 that there would be no new agreements or changes to existing ones.
The letter states: “with regard to new and updated Swiss access to the internal market, including equivalence decisions in the field of financial services, no new negotiations should be included. Ongoing discussions or negotiations should be suspended or delayed until a satisfactory result for the framework agreement is found.”
According to NZZ, Switzerland’s government appears to be in the dark about the directive’s consequences. The next key update is on trade in medical devices, which is due in 2020.
With a framework agreement Switzerland could argue its case before the EU arbitration tribunal. Without it there is little Switzerland’s government can do.
The framework agreement aims to further formalise Swiss-EU relations. It would cover existing agreements on free movement of people, mutual recognition of industrial standards, agricultural products, air transport and land transport, along with equivalence for Switzerland’s financial services sector. In addition, it would aim to automatically update Swiss rules in these areas to keep them in line with EU ones while still giving the European Court of Justice (ECJ) a say in how to interpret law. Ongoing talks to agree it started in 2014.
Earlier in January 2019, Swiss president and finance minister Ueli Maurer said on Tele Zuri that he thinks voters would not accept the framework agreement as it stand today and substantial renegotiation is needed. To give the government time for a public consultation the EU extended the Swiss stock market’s access to EU markets by six months.
NZZ article (in German)