Swiss–EU relations: Federal Council approves definitive negotiating mandate

Bern, 08.03.2024 - At its meeting on 8 March 2024, the Federal Council approved the negotiating mandate with the EU in its definitive form. The mandate adopted takes account of the results of the consultation with the foreign affairs committees (FACs) and other interested parliamentary committees, the cantons and the views of the social and economic partners. Negotiations will begin as soon as the European Commission has adopted its own definitive mandate, expected sometime in March 2024.

Apart from the FACs, seven other parliamentary committees wished to be consulted on the draft negotiating mandate. The social and economic partners were also invited to express their views. Numerous other interest groups and umbrella associations have also expressed their views to the Federal Council.

The Federal Council notes that the vast majority of stakeholders consulted support the opening of negotiations with the EU on the basis of the package approach. After analysing the views expressed in the consultation, the government has decided to adopt a large proportion of the recommendations, which will thus clarify the draft negotiating mandate of 15 December 2023.

The recommendations that were not adopted concern elements that are not in line with the core objectives of the package, in particular in the electricity sector, such as proposals to exclude electricity production from the scope of the agreement or not to take market liberalisation measures.

Recommendations adopted

The Federal Council adopted the following recommendations in particular:

1.     Electricity: with regard to the opening up of markets, the Federal Council aims to give consumers the option of remaining in the regulated basic supply (public service), envisioned as the 'standard' option with regulated prices. This 'choice model', including the right to return to regulated basic supply, will be strengthened.  The Federal Council also seeks to ensure that the existing state aid remains in place as is, particular in the area of renewable electricity production.

2.     Overland Transport Agreement: in parallel with the controlled opening up of international rail passenger transport, the Federal Council will seek to maintain the cooperation model and Switzerland's prerogative to allocate slots on its own territory. The controlled opening up of international rail transport must not affect the quality of public transport in Switzerland.

3.     Agreement on agricultural products: the mandate specifies that customs tariffs are to remain in place, including tariff quotas and their method of administration. Switzerland's sovereignty over its agricultural policy must remain unaffected.

4.     Immigration: the objective of immigration geared towards the labour market will be strengthened, as will the wording concerning the right of residence, with the aim of better protecting the Swiss social system.

5.     Wage protection: the objective of ensuring wage and working conditions by maintaining the current level of protection sustainably will be reaffirmed. The exception relating to guarantees will be clarified: it is aimed at achieving an effect comparable to the current system of guarantees. In addition, a solution will be sought regarding expense allowances. The objective is to ensure equal rights, in view of Swiss price levels.

6.     Institutional elements: with regard to Switzerland's participation in the EU single market, the Federal Council will seek to ensure that compensation measures, should Switzerland decide not to adopt a specific change in EU law, are only possible following a decision by the arbitration panel, including on the question of proportionality.

7.     Free trade agreement: the 1972 agreement is not part of the package or the scope of the negotiations.

The Federal Council will thus clarify its interests in the negotiations and aim to give them a solid foundation domestically, while maintaining room for manoeuvre with the EU.

In terms of the discussions held in Switzerland with the partners concerned in the areas of immigration, electricity, wage protection and overland transport, the Federal Council has made a positive assessment and has instructed the relevant departments to continue this work in parallel with the negotiations, with the aim of defining the appropriate accompanying measures at the domestic level.

In addition, since the end of the exploratory talks, Switzerland and the EU are able to resume regulatory dialogue on financial matters.

Next stages

As soon as the EU has also adopted its definitive mandate, negotiations can begin, probably in March. The various elements of the package will be negotiated in parallel under the overall direction of chief negotiator Patric Franzen, the deputy state secretary of the FDFA. Each element of the package will be specifically negotiated in tandem by the chief negotiator and the specialist negotiator representing the relevant department.

An interdepartmental working group led by the state secretary of the FDFA, Alexandre Fasel, will coordinate the work carried out in Switzerland with that of the negotiations. The overall organisation of the programme adopted in September 2022 remains unchanged and will continue to be led by the head of the FDFA.

Finally, the FDJP has been asked to submit a legal analysis to the Federal Council on the question of the referendum (mandatory or optional) to which the package will be subject if the negotiations reach a successful conclusion.


Address for enquiries

For further information:
FDFA Communication
Tel. Press service +41 460 55 55
kommunikation@eda.admin.ch



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