The EU and Switzerland Seek to Deepen Relations

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.19 - 2024 7:49 AM CET

Alexandros Michailidis /
Alexandros Michailidis /
The EU and Switzerland have started a process to deepen relations.

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On March 18, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Swiss President Viola Amgerd kicked off discussions aimed at deepening the relationship between the European Union and Switzerland.

The European Commission's press service revealed that the negotiations focus on a comprehensive package of measures to enhance and broaden the ties between the two entities.

Aim for Fair Competition and Citizen Rights Protection

The joint agreement between Brussels and Bern confirms the desire of both sides to complete the negotiations this year - the negotiating groups will meet on March 19.

These discussions are set to ensure equitable competition for European and Swiss firms within the EU internal market and to safeguard the rights of EU citizens working in Switzerland.

The negotiation package includes institutional arrangements for present and future agreements relating to the EU's internal market with Switzerland. These arrangements seek dynamic alignment with EU law, ensuring its uniform interpretation and application, along with settling disputes.

The negotiations will also address state aid rules in several existing and prospective agreements related to the internal market; an accord allowing Switzerland's involvement in EU programs; and a pact on Switzerland's ongoing financial contribution to the EU's social and economic cohesion as an alternative to participating in the internal market.

Further topics for discussion include resuming talks on agreements regarding electricity, food safety, health protection, and Switzerland's engagement with EU agencies for space and rail transport programs.

Opportunities for Swiss Organizations in European Research

Following the commencement of negotiations, the European Commission will enable Swiss organizations to apply for competitions held by the European Research Council starting in 2024. Swiss applicants will be considered as if Switzerland were an associated country, reflecting the close and interconnected relationship between the EU and Switzerland.

The EU is Switzerland's primary trade partner, while Switzerland ranks as the EU's fourth largest. The bilateral relationship is marked by significant cross-border connections, with approximately 1.5 million EU citizens residing in Switzerland and about 450,000 Swiss citizens living in the EU. Daily, several hundred thousand EU citizens commute across the border for work.

This initiation of talks follows the Council of the European Union's March 12 authorization for the European Commission to negotiate on renewing relations with Switzerland and the Swiss government's approval of a new mandate for discussions with Brussels on modernizing its ties with the European Union.

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