Swiss president outlines proposal to revive stalled treaty with the EU

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga called European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday to outline Bern’s proposal to unblock a stalled bilateral treaty, von der Leyen said in a tweet. “I took note and await further details. We need to make progress towards signing the IFA” (Institutional Framework Agreement) treaty, she added without elaborating.

The pact would formalise ties between non-EU member Switzerland and the 27-nation bloc now governed by a patchwork of 120 bilateral accords.

It focuses on five areas - free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods. Switzerland would agree to take on EU single market rules in these areas.

The Swiss government said on Wednesday it was resuming talks over the treaty, which was negotiated over four years but has languished while Bern tries to forge domestic consensus on how to proceed.The government has given no details on its stance, but said in the past it wants clarifications on state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss welfare benefits and unilateral Swiss rules designed to protect high wages from competition by cross-border workers on temporary assignments. Critics say it infringes so much on Swiss sovereignty that it would never win a referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy.

A Commission spokesman told a news briefing that von der Leyen awaited more information from the Swiss side, Reuters reported.

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