President Amherd and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen open negotiations between Switzerland and the EU

Press releases, 18.03.2024

On Monday, 18 March, President Viola Amherd and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen officially opened negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) in the presence of the chief negotiators from both sides. While in Brussels, Ms Amherd also met with Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice President of the European Commission. In addition to bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU, geopolitical and security policy challenges facing Europe were also discussed.

Both sides acknowledged the importance of bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU, as well as the economic, cultural and social values they share. Ms Amherd stressed that in view of international challenges on matters of security, climate and migration for example, it is particularly important to maintain positive and constructive forms of cooperation in Europe. Switzerland and the EU are endeavouring to stabilise and further develop their relations. The adoption of the negotiating mandates represented a major step in this direction. The Swiss president and the European Commission president were pleased that negotiations on the various elements of the package were already to begin this week. As part of the transitional arrangements agreed with the EU, researchers in Switzerland are now eligible for 2024 calls for European Research Council Advance Grants.

The cornerstone of the package now being negotiated is barrier-free access to the EU internal market. Existing internal market agreements are to be updated and new sectoral agreements concluded in the areas of electricity and food safety. Securing Switzerland's participation in EU programmes, particularly in the area of research (Horizon) and a cooperation agreement in the area of health also form part of the package. With regard to the free movement of persons, Switzerland is concerned about maintaining the level of wage protection and labour market-oriented immigration with the aim of protecting the social welfare system.

Further topics of discussion on Monday included the security policy situation in Europe, the commitment on the part of Switzerland and the EU to peace and the expansion of security policy cooperation as decided by the Federal Council in September 2022. Consultations between Switzerland and the EU on security and defence were upgraded to a structured dialogue in November 2023. With regard to Russia’s war against Ukraine, Ms Amherd explained Switzerland's intention to organise an initial high-level conference on peace in Ukraine. She emphasised that a great deal of commitment was required to lay the foundations for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. At the meeting with Vice President Šefčovič, talks focused on the situation in the Middle East, migration issues and the European Political Community (EPC) as an intergovernmental forum for political dialogue and cooperation on the European continent.

The vice president of the Commission and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), will aim to meet in June to discuss the status of the negotiations.

Further information:

Switzerland and the EU: cooperation and negotiation

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