Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsIt has been many years now that the European Union has suggested, or demanded, an overhaul of the institutional side of the Swiss EU bilateral or sectoral agreements. It would appear that first statements to that effect were made on the occasion of a visit in Switzerland of the then president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, in 2006. Thereafter, successive documents of the EU institutions repeated the demands. Particularly clear are the conclusions of the Council of Ministers of 2010 on the relations with the EFTA countries. Here are some excerpts of what the Council said about Switzerland.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsThe Council notes that this sectoral approach has allowed closer cooperation in a few areas of mutual interest, but has turned in the course of the years into a highly complex set of multiple agreements. 'Due to a lack of efficient arrangements for the takeover of new EU acquis, including case law of the Court of Justice. And for ensuring the supervision and enforcement of the existing agreements, this approach does not ensure the necessary homogeneity in the parts of the internal market and of the EU policies in which Switzerland participates. This has resulted in legal uncertainty for authorities, operators, and individual citizens.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 secondsIn full respect of the Swiss sovereignty and choices, the Council has come to the conclusion that while the present system of bilateral agreements has worked well in the past, the key challenge for the coming years will be to go beyond that system, which has become complex and unwieldy to manage and has clearly reached its limits. As a consequence, horizontal issues related to the dynamic adaptation of agreements to the evolving acquis, the homogeneous interpretations of the agreements, an independent surveillance and judicial enforcement mechanism, and a dispute settlement mechanism need to be reflected in EU Switzerland agreements.'

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsIt emerges from this quote that the EU has in mind four focus points for the renewal of the institutional aspects of the bilateral market access agreements. Namely-- first, a system of continued updating of the bilateral market access law in view of changes in the relevant EU law. Second, an interpretation of this law in line with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the same EU law matters. Third, an effective international mechanism to supervise the application of this law. Fourth, an effective international mechanism for the resolution of disputes between the parties.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 secondsFrom the EU documents on these institutional issues, it emerges further that the EU is not willing to conclude new agreements with Switzerland, providing for market access. That is, agreements in the field of the internal market as long as there is no new institutional framework in place. This proved a difficult issue for Switzerland, which wishes in particular to conclude a new agreement on trade in energy. Because of the institutional issues, the negotiations on this matter have been going on for many years now and in fact, appear to be stuck, pending a solution that is acceptable to both sides with respect to the institutional issues in the Swiss-EU relations.

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 secondsIn our next step, we will take a moment to see whether you have understood what institutional issues are about. Thereafter, we will turn to the EU models for reform of the institutional system.

EU demands with respect to the Swiss-EU agreements

The European Union (EU) demands an overhaul in respect to four institutional issues.

The EU has suggested an overhaul of the institutional side of the Swiss–EU bilateral agreements with respect to four issues, namely:

  1. A system of continued updating of the bilateral market access law in view of changes in the relevant EU law;
  2. An interpretation of this law in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the same EU law matters;
  3. An effective, international mechanism to supervise the application of this law and
  4. An effective, international mechanism for the resolution of disputes between the parties, including a judicial element.

Further information can be found in the linked documents under ‘see also’.

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This video is from the free online course:

Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters

University of Basel