"It was a positive outcome. And I'm proud of that"
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis talks about the framework agreement in an interview with CH Media. He emphasises the clear position of the Federal Council, adding that failing to strike a deal and reaching an agreement both come at a price. The bilateral path remains in place in both cases.
What does the future look like with and without the framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU? © Keystone
On 30.4.2021, Ignazio Cassis has talked to CH Media about the framework agreement. While affirming the positive outcome of the talks, he stressed that the agreement could not be signed "without significant movement on the part of the EU." Talks on a Swiss-EU framework agreement have been ongoing since 2005, involving three federal councillors and five state secretaries.
Points of difference clarified: a positive outcome
The draft framework agreement has been on the table since 2018. "While the outcome of talks has been positive, the agreement is still a work in progress. And yes, I'm proud of that,” says Cassis in the interview, and continues: “It's taken me just ten months to get the Federal Council to back this agreement. When I became head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, not everyone understood what Switzerland actually wanted." Mr Cassis claimed that he had resolved this issue and delivered results, adding that there are currently major points of difference. "But we have now brought these out into the open."
According to Mr Cassis, there was disagreement on freedom of movement right from the outset, which was also why the EU needed a framework agreement. The EU wanted to resolve a range of institutional issues, including the dynamic adoption of legislation and dispute settlement mechanisms. But, as Mr Cassis said, disagreement on freedom of movement meant there was no apparent will to find solutions. "For Switzerland, it's about the ability of workers and their families to move freely, while for the EU the free movement of EU citizens is at stake. This represents a fundamental difference and we cannot give way on this." As Mr Cassis pointed out, this would have an adverse impact on immigration, residence permits, social security and wage protection. "It would be tantamount to Switzerland joining the EU and us all becoming EU citizens."
It continues in any case
According to Mr Cassis it would "not be the end of the world" if the framework agreement fell through. "We're not looking at a Swiss version of Brexit," clarifies Federal Councillor Cassis. The status quo will be maintained at least for now. "We will continue to co-exist and do business together, trading goods worth CHF billion every day."
But there are also strong arguments in favour of the agreement. The absence of an agreement would mean "worse conditions for a range of economic sectors." As Mr Cassis pointed out, the EU is reluctant to enter into further agreements extending market access to Switzerland.
According to Mr Cassis, concessions would be needed for the framework agreement to be approved, which would be controversial on the domestic front. Federal Councillor Cassis then makes a comparison: "Imagine you are looking to buy a house, but your offer price is very far away from the asking price. Eventually, you come to the decision that you really can't afford this house." According to Mr Cassis, the framework agreement comes at a price, whether it is ultimately endorsed or rejected.