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Wrapping up Week 5

Read how Prof. Christa Tobler summarises this week’s main topic: the institutional framework and its legal challenges.

In Week 5 of this course we explored an aspect that in the past years has presented many challenges to the legal relationship between Switzerland and the EU: the so-called institutional framework.

As we have seen it provides rules on how the sectoral and bilateral agreements develop further once they have been signed. It addresses how their provisions and mechanisms are interpreted to ensure that the agreements are respected in practice, that is their so-called enforcement and supervision. Throughout this week you investigated this under different perspectives.

The EU wishes to renew the present framework for about ten years in order to make it more homogeneous with EU law and more effective. Since spring 2015, when Swiss-EU negotiations have begun, very fundamental differences between the parties have become apparent. On the EU side, the offer to non-Member States to associate themselves to the Union’s market is increasingly tied to the demand that such countries play by the EU’s rules and accept institutional models based on the EU’s own model. On the Swiss side, the public debate tends to centre on the issue of state sovereignty and democracy.

First you identified the legal differences between substantive content and institutional issues. We introduced the example of the 8-days rule that has led to discussions between Switzerland and the EU. You discovered that the various agreements between Switzerland and the European Union are in this respect rather disparate in nature. We have also discussed by which procedures the institutional issues of international agreements may be changed.

We used two case studies to shed light on aspects of the conflict as well as of its possible solutions. The first one showed how the Swiss democratic system and the updating of the Schengen Agreement work together in practice, as we described the introduction of biometric passports in the European Union. In the second one you discussed the dynamic nature of the European Economic Area (EEA) law.

You explored different models as for instance the one-pillar and the two-pillar systems. You discussed these approaches in respect to Switzerland. The debate hopefully helped you to reflect also on the consequences for other non-Member States.

In Week 6 you will build on these insights as well as on those you gained during the whole of this course to evaluate the present state of the legal and political relationship between Switzerland and the European Union. You will also explore different scenarios for this relationship in the future. More generally in Week 6 you will assess the challenges and position of non-Member States facing an important international organisation such as the EU.

© University of Basel
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