Since 2014, Switzerland has been negotiating an institutional agreement with the European Union with the aim of consolidating and making mutual market access more sustainable. This agreement should provide a framework for present and future market access agreements. The institutional agreement would apply to five existing agreements: the Agreement on the free movement of persons, the Agreement on air transport, the Agreement on overland transport, the Agreement on trade in agricultural products and the Agreement on mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment.
The goal of the institutional agreement is to provide a future framework for a more homogeneous and efficient implementation of (existing and future) market access agreements. The aim is to guarantee legal certainty in the area of market access and to preserve Switzerland's independence and legal order. Access to the European market requires Switzerland to adopt equivalent standards or to adopt existing European law. Of the approximately 120 agreements between Switzerland and the EU, only the five agreements mentioned fall into this category.
Institutional issues concern the following four areas:
- Legal developments: What procedures should be employed to adjust agreements to new legal developments in the EU «acquis» that concern them?
- Supervision: How can a consistent supervision of the application of the bilateral agreements be ensured?
- Interpretation: How can the consistent interpretation of the bilateral agreements be ensured?
- Dispute settlement: What procedures should be used to settle disputes between Switzerland and the EU, and what body should be vested with decision-making powers in disputes between the two parties?
The Federal Council adopted the negotiating mandate on 18 December 2013 and the EU Council on 6 May 2014. From the start of the negotiations in 2014 until the end of December 2018, around 30 negotiation rounds have taken place between Switzerland and the EU.
On 7 December 2018, the Federal Council took note of the draft agreement and decided to launch consultations with interested parties and social partners on the draft. At its meeting on 7 June 2019, the Federal Council approved the report on the consultations and reiterated its generally positive assessment of the draft institutional agreement. It requested clarifications on three points, in particular on certain provisions relating to the protection of wages and workers, on state aid and on the directive on the free movement of EU citizens. The social partners and the cantons are closely involved in this process