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Swiss president warns against EU reprisals over collapsed talks

Published on May 30, 2021

It is not in the European Union’s interests to punish Switzerland following the collapse of talks on the future of bilateral relations, the Swiss president has warned.

“The EU would harm itself by torpedoing trade relations with one of its most important trading partners,” Guy Parmelin told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Switzerland ended a seven-year effort to craft an overarching treaty to replace the more than 120 bilateral deals which have regulated relations for the past decades.

Parmelin, who heads the economics ministry in addition to serving this year as Swiss president, tried to soothe fears of uncertainty by saying that the collapsed talks have resulted in “clarity”.

“Had we continued to negotiate, with practically no prospect of success, it would have resulted in a longer period of uncertainty. Now we know that this contract [framework treaty] is not possible,” he said.

The EU has already barred the Swiss stock exchange from trading EU shares and cast doubt on Switzerland’s continued participation in the Horizon Europe research programme and Erasmus+ student exchange scheme.

There are fears that Switzerland will be increasingly frozen out of access to the single market, such as an electricity union.

Switzerland has retaliated by blocking Swiss company share trading on EU stock exchanges and by withholding a CHF1 billion ($1.1 billion) payment to the EU cohesion fund.

Parmelin said the process of pricking each other with needles must come to an end. Kicking Switzerland out of the Horizon Research scheme would “weaken Europe as a research location compared to Asia and the US. Taking research hostage does not serve anyone.”

“This example demonstrates that needling does not benefit the population, neither here nor in the EU. You don’t prick someone if you want to arrive at a joint solution and are looking for a win-win situation through an agreement.”

Swiss policy will now concentrate on finding ways of updating existing bilateral agreements to iron out differences between the two sides.

swissinfo.ch/mga