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Switzerland – legal island?

Prof. Christa Tobler recaps what we have discovered so far about the legal relationship between Switzerland and the EU.
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As you discovered, the perceptions with respect to the aims and the purpose of the Swiss-EU economic law differ quite remarkably depending on the party. For the EU, Switzerland is a participant in a multilateral project, namely, the Union’s internal market and its extension to the EFTA states either fully — in the case of Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA — or partially in the case of Switzerland through the Swiss EU sectoral or bilateral law. In contrast, for Switzerland, the bilateral law is about the selective regulation through traditional international law of reciprocal market access between the parties.
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However different these views may be, the fact remains that Switzerland, despite the appearance on the European legal landscape, is far from being a legal island in Europe. Rather, it is linked to Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EFTA and to the EU Member States through a complex system of sectoral or bilateral agreements. On the larger scale — that is, beyond the EU and the EEA — Switzerland is a member of the Council of Europe, through which it shares a common system of European values expressed in human rights and fundamental freedoms with many other European states. We, therefore, can conclude that Switzerland is far from being a legal island in Europe.
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In fact, no state can exist as a legal island today. At the end of this step, we invite you to reflect once more on the options of countries that remain outside the EU or decide to leave. In order to have an overview on these options, you may wish to read an article that was written before the UK voted in June 2016 on staying in or leaving the EU. The article was published by the Schuman Centre and is entitled ‚Should the UK withdraw
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from the EU: Legal Aspects and Effects of Possible Options’. You can find it on the web page of the Schuman Centre. Outside or inside the EU, which option would you choose?
No country is an island, and neither is Switzerland.
Having studied the legal links between different European countries when it comes, notably, to economic matters, it must be concluded that Switzerland is far from being a legal island in Europe. Rather, it is linked to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and to the European Union (EU) Member States through a complex system of sectoral or bilateral agreements.
We invite you to reflect upon the options of countries that remain outside the EU – or decide to leave. The article that you will find under ‘see also’ might give you some insights. Note: it was written before the vote in the UK of 23 June, 2016.
Outside or inside the EU? Which option would you choose?
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Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters

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