Senators reluctant to rush the release of EU cohesion payments

Senate President Alex Kuprecht from the People's Party. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

While the Swiss government wants to make amends with the EU by releasing the so-called “cohesion billions” as soon as possible, the Senate is in no hurry.

This content was published on August 3, 2021 - 11:32

The cohesion contribution, a CHF1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) payment to be made to the European Union (EU), goes towards financing reforms in newer members of the bloc. This would be the second such payment by the Swiss, after an initial contribution was approved by voters in 2006.

The current payment was ratified in 2019 by parliament, but the funds have not been released following various spats with the EU, notably around stock market equivalence.

After the Swiss government unilaterally walked away from seven years of talks on a new framework treaty with the EU in May, it pledged to press parliament to release the funds “as soon as possible” as a way of smoothing over relations.

However, the Senate might be less willing to push through the ratification of the funds quickly, Swiss public radio, SRF, reported on Tuesday.

A five-person office, led by Senate president Alex Kuprecht from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, says that normal procedure should continue: in one session an issue is discussed in one chamber, in the next session in the other. This would mean that the decision would have to wait until the winter session at the end of the year.

“We will not allow this bill to be rushed through both chambers in the same session,” Kuprecht told SRF.

‘Won’t be pressured’

Kuprecht also said he had received phone calls from politicians and interest groups in a bid to speed up the process, but he said “the Senate won’t allow itself to be pressured”.

However, Matthias Michel from the Liberal-Radical Party said such a go-slow would be detrimental. The Senate should support the government in its efforts to “normalise” relations with Brussels, he told SRF.

Michel said foreign policy was the government’s responsibility and the Senate shouldn’t hinder the use of the cohesion payment as an “instrument” to repair the unclear relations with Brussels.

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