Friday 5 February 2010

EU and Switzerland: Bilateral treaties and challenges

Since Switzerland is outside the European Union (EU) as well as the European Economic Area (EEA), the relations have been developed mainly on the basis of bilateral agreements. The Treaties Office of the European Commission’s DG External Relations offers access to the existing EU-Switzerland treaties, bilateral and multilateral, 175 in all.

DG Trade presents an overview of trade with Switzerland, noting that:

Switzerland's main trading partner is the EU. On the other hand, Switzerland is currently the fourth largest trading partner of the EU. Trade figures in 2008 show €80 billion in imports and €97.6 billion in exports. In terms of imports, Switzerland was the EU's 5th most important trading partner in 2008, after the US, China, Russia and Norway. Regarding exports, Switzerland was the 3rd after the US and Russia in the same period.

The presentation contains on overview of how the agreements have developed, including the Bilateral I package (in force from June 2002) and the Bilateral II package (signed in October 2004).

Among the 130 Commission Delegations and Offices, the European Union has a Delegation in Berne, Switzerland (for Liechtenstein as well). The New Year’s greeting (available in German, French and Italian) by the Head of Delegation Michael Reiterer is refreshingly free from empty phrases. Instead Reiterer outlines the macro level challenges ahead and digs into new areas of cooperation as well as unresolved issues on the table, such as tax fraud and evasion.

More information about the history of cooperation and ongoing issues is offered on the web page (here the German version) Die EU und die Schweiz and further topical links:


On trade in agricultural goods:

Ein allfälliges Abkommen im Agrar- und Lebensmittelbereich (FHAL) liegt im beiderseitigen Interesse der EU und der Schweiz.


State aid:

Die Europäische Kommission hat im Februar 2007 eine Beihilfenentscheidung getroffen. Die EU hat eine Beihilfenentscheidung getroffen, was nicht ausreichend zur Kenntnis genommen wird, weshalb auch von "Steuerstreit" gesprochen wird.



Ein Elektrizitätsabkommen zur Sicherung der Energieversorgung, zur Regelung des Transits und zur Teilnahme der Schweiz am europäischen Elekrtizitätsbinnenmarkt liegt im beidseitigen Interesse der EU und der Schweiz.


Participation in cohesion policy costs:

Die Kohäsionspolitik der Europäischen Union hat zum Ziel, die Unterschiede im wirtschaftlichen Entwicklungsstand der europäischen Regionen zu verringern. Damit soll der wirtschaftliche und soziale Zusammenhalt innerhalb der EU verstärkt werden. Die Schweiz profitiert dank ihrer bilateralen Abkommen, welche sie mit der EU abgeschlossen hat, direkt von jeder Erweiterung der Union, weshalb die EU die Schweizer Behörden einlud, einen Beitrag an die europäische Kohäsion zu leisten.


Free movement of persons:

Personenfreizügigkeit zwischen der Schweiz und der EU.


Cooperation in the Schengen area:

Im Rahmen der Schengen Zusammenarbeit wird der Reiseverkehr erleichtert, indem die systematischen Personenkontrollen an den gemeinsamen Grenzen zwischen den Schengen-Staaten aufgehoben werden.


Taxation of savings income:

Die Richtlinie regelt die Besteuerung von Zinserträgen, welche an natürliche Personen in einem EU-Mitgliedstaat ausserhalb ihres eigenen Wohnsitzstaates gezahlt werden.


Customs security cooperation:

Aus Sicherheitsgründen sind Wirtschaftsteilnehmer verpflichtet, die Zollbehörden im voraus über Waren zu informieren, die in das Zollgebiet der EU ein- oder aus diesem ausgeführt werden. Das betrifft zu einem grossen Teil auch die Schweiz.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. A federal system is democratic and aims at resolving issues at the right level. The Federal Union Blog argues for federalist solutions in Britain, Europe and the world.

The Federal Union Blog is listed among 522 great Euroblogs (at the latest count) on growing multilingual, your useful one-stop-shop for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs, i.a. politics, more than thirty policy areas, communication, economics, finance, business, civil society and law.

At the same time Euroblogs are an agreeable way to brush up one’s skills in foreign languages.

If you are interested in the EU or the euroblogosphere, you can also subscribe to the RSS feed for new blog posts appearing on

By the way, I also discuss European issues, including the relations between the EU and Switzerland, in Finnish on Eurooppaoikeus and in Swedish on Grahnblawg.


  1. See also for more general info on Switzerland and the EU.

  2. Dick Nieuwenhuis,

    The RELEX web page was actually my starting page or hub for accessing the other pages through the links on offer. But the page itself did not have much information: a short history and links to a few fairly recent press releases.

  3. I am glad to hear that as we did indeed construct these pages so serve as a hub to all other info coming from the EU institution on that country/subject! Not the endless bureaucratic stories we published in the past. However, there aren't that many press releases.

  4. Dick Nieuwenhuis,

    I agree about endless bureaucratic texts, but when RELEX/EEAS updates pages in the future one could perhaps attempt a presentation in a nutshell (with further links), for instance:

    Importance (economic, geographical, security, defence...)

    Aims (political; policies)

    Existing relations (treaties; legal acts; political; joint statements...)

    Adding the date of the latest update on every web page is a real service to researchers, students and others.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.