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This content is taken from the University of Basel's online course, Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Towards the end of our last course week, I want to invite you to take a step back from the many specific issues that we discussed in our course and to think more generally about ways how the relationship between Switzerland and the EU could be construed from a legal point of view. So what are these options? In the following, we first look at the list made by the Swiss Federal Government. Thereafter, we turn to some additional ideas. As for the Federal Government, in its Europe report of 2006, it mentioned and discussed notably the following options for Switzerland vis a vis its big neighbour, the European Union.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds First, unilateral adaptation of the Swiss legislation to EU law in the relevant fields, the so-called autonomous adaptation. Second, administration and further development of the existing Swiss-EU Agreements. Third, negotiations in new policy fields in view of the conclusion of new agreements. Fourth, creation of a customs union. Fifth, improving the institutional framework of the existing agreements. Six, conclusion of an association agreement. Seventh, EEA membership and its EU membership. Of these options, the Swiss Federal Government considered the continuation of the bilateral path best, which it confirmed subsequently on various occasions. In practice, the path chosen since 2006 is a combination of the options 1, 2, 3, and 5. In the public discussion in Switzerland, further ideas have been offered.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds The following are two rather different examples. First, circles critical of the EU have suggested that Switzerland could very well do all together without any Swiss-EU sectoral or bilateral law. In their opinion, the law of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, would be quite sufficient for granting market access. Both contentions are strongly rejected by the Swiss Federal Government, which has presented several studies on the economic value of the bilateral law. Second, the Swiss Socialist Party has long been in favour of Switzerland establishing a truly multilateral relationship with the EU. Ultimately, it is a proponent of EU membership. As an intermediary step in this direction, the party has also considered that Switzerland join the EEA.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds In this context, it uses the term EEA 2.0 in order to emphasise the fact that today’s EEA is something rather different from the EEA of 1992 when Switzerland said no to it. In our next step, we will invite you to discuss these options.

Options in theory

In theory, Switzerland can choose from a number of options of how to regulate its legal relationship with the European Union (EU).

When considering, on a general level, how to best regulate its relationship with the European Union, Switzerland has looked at a number of options. These range from mere unilateral adaptation of Swiss law to EU law to European Economic Area (EEA), or even EU, membership. Today, the Swiss Federal Government favours the sectoral or bilateral approach based on Swiss-EU agreements. In the public debate also other options have been offered for discussion.

For additional information you may read the texts we put under the section ‘see also’.

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Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters

University of Basel