EU-Switzerland treaty talks close to collapse

A framework to simplify and strengthen ties between Switzerland and the EU was on the road to collapsing on Wednesday as the Swiss government met to consider breaking off talks over ratification of a draft treaty struck in 2018. A summit last month failed to resolve differences over a pact widely criticised within Switzerland, Reuters reported.

It was focused on five areas: free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods, but Switzerland insisted on more concessions on state aid, labour rules and citizens' rights , and one political source said he expected the cabinet to decide after years of foot-dragging to cancel further negotiations. But walking away from its biggest trading partner could over time disrupt and ultimately jeopardise Switzerland's de facto membership of the EU common market.

For its part, the 27-member EU wants an overarching treaty to bind non-EU member Switzerland more closely to single market rules and provide a more effective way to resolve disputes. EU-Swiss economic ties are now governed by more than 100 bilateral agreements stretching back to 1972 and fleshed out after Swiss voters in 1992 rejected membership of the European Economic Area. They will remain in effect.

Failure to strike a treaty deal would however block any new Swiss access to the single market, such as an electricity union. Existing accords will also erode over time, including an agreement on cross-border trade in medical technology products that lapsed this week in the absence of a treaty deal. read more

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