Commission proposes mandate for negotiations with Switzerland to Council
The Commission adopted today a Recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations with Switzerland, together with a proposal for a negotiating mandate.
The adoption of the Commission Recommendation and the mandate proposal follows the conclusion of the exploratory talks on the future relationship between the EU and Switzerland, and the recent decision of the Swiss Federal Council to approve a draft negotiating mandate with the EU and launch consultations with its Parliament and cantons on its draft mandate.
The Commission's proposal is based on the Common Understanding achieved after 18 months of exploratory talks with representatives of Switzerland's Federal Council. The document sets out a broad and balanced package of measures that will support the modernisation and further development of bilateral relations.
A broad and balanced package
The Commission's proposal for a mandate ensures the protection of the rights of EU citizens in Switzerland as well as fair competition between EU and Swiss companies operating within the internal market. It also addresses Swiss concerns through targeted exceptions to certain EU rules. The proposed negotiating mandate covers notably the following elements:
- Institutional elements to be inserted in existing and future bilateral agreements that would enable Swiss participation in the internal market;
- A way forward on the free movement of persons and posting of workers. It identifies ways to protect the rights of EU citizens and workers, including by ensuring non-discrimination between citizens of different Member States.
- An agreement that would form the basis for Switzerland's regular contribution to social and economic cohesion in the EU;
- An agreement that would provide for the association of Switzerland to Union programmes, including Horizon Europe. The Common Understanding also provides a way forward for transitional arrangements that would enable Swiss entities to apply for grants under some Union research programmes before the negotiations are concluded.
The proposal builds on the existing mandates for agreements on electricity, health, food safety and the participation of Switzerland in the European Union Agencies for the Space Programme and for Railways.
The Commission Recommendation will serve as a basis for the Council's work on the final mandate that will define the parameters for Commission's engagement in the negotiations with Switzerland. The negotiations between the EU and Switzerland will start once both sides have their negotiating mandates approved according to their respective procedures.
Members of the College said:
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Switzerland and the EU are close friends and partners. We both wish to strengthen our ties and set our bilateral relations on an even stronger basis. Today's decision on a proposal for a negotiating mandate brings us another step closer to opening negotiations on our future relationship.”
The EU and Switzerland are close neighbours with strong cross border links. The EU is Switzerland's first trading partner, while Switzerland is the fourth largest partner for the EU. About one and a half million EU citizens live in Switzerland, and around 450 000 Swiss citizens live in the EU. A few hundred thousand of EU citizens cross the border daily to work.
Since March 2022, the EU and Switzerland were engaged in exploratory discussions on the future of their bilateral relations. On 15 December 2023, the Commission and the Federal Council published the Common Understanding that provides a written record of the outcome of the exploratory talks. On the same day, Swiss Federal Council launched consultations with the Swiss Parliament on its draft negotiating mandate.
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