Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Can’t live with them, can’t live without them: European Union and Switzerland

The relations between landlocked Switzerland and the surrounding European Union are special in many respects. Trade, transport, free movement including migration and cross-border work, banking (secrecy) and tax (evasion) are highly visible ingredients. Here are a few background notes in the form of earlier blog posts and an evaluation of what the EU institutions currently offer interested businesses and citizens.

Grahnlaw blog posts

Internal market: Switzerland at the heart of Europe? (2 February 2010)

Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA): EFTA member Switzerland outside EEA and EU (3 February 2010).

Switzerland has previously rejected membership in the European Union (EU) as well as in the European Economic Area (EEA), which extends the internal market to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland has concluded a host of bilateral agreements with the EU: EU and Switzerland: Bilateral treaties and challenges (5 February 2010).

Tax matters for Switzerland and the European Union (6 February 2010)

Hot tax row between Germany and Switzerland (7 February 2010)

EU against tax fraud (8 February 2010)


Switzerland is not found among the top items on the front page of the European External Action Service (EEAS) this morning.

The EEAS pages are clear and easy to navigate. It is easy to find the country page for Switzerland, with a few basic facts and links to further sources.

The EU delegation for Switzerland and Liechtenstein in Bern offers additional information about the bilateral relations, in German, French and Italian.

The central EEAS pages are short on information about the important Schengen agreement, implemented since December 2008 (admittedly home affairs). They are also vague with regard to political perspectives and aspirations for the future relationship generally, although there are links to two presidential public appearances during the last months, one by Herman Van Rompuy and the latest one by José Manuel Barroso.

Bilateral treaties

Formally, the Treaties Office of the EU today lists 179 bilateral treaties with Switzerland, although in current discussions about 120 treaties is often mentioned as the existing (real) number.

If we look at fresh Council document references, matters concerning Schengen implementation seem to be the run of the mill cooperation issues between EU and Swiss officials (as well as with those from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein).

More informative from a general point of view is the European Parliament resolution of 7 September 2010 on EEA-Switzerland: Obstacles with regard to the full implementation of the internal market P7_TA-PROV(2010)0300. It is based on an own-initiative report, procedure file INI/2009/2176.


My search was not exhaustive or methodical enough to unearth everything, but an attempt to find materials readily available to assess were the relations are heading. Despite the Barroso and Van Rompuy speeches I did not go into in this blog post, with regard to my objective the European Parliament came out on top, because it actually discusses problems and challenges from an important and a fairly broad perspective: trade and the free movement of services and persons (internal market).

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Presseurop is an important resource for people interested in European affairs. It presents itself in the following manner: is a Paris based news website publishing a daily selection of articles chosen from more than 200 international news titles, then translated into ten languages - English, German, French, Spanish, Romanian, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish and Czech.

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