Swiss government seeks to unfreeze EU cohesion payment

Switzerland has profered an olive branch to the EU despite official negoations breaking down. Keystone / Francois Walschaerts / Pool

The Swiss government will ask parliament this year to unblock a CHF1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) payment to the European Union cohesion fund.

This content was published on June 4, 2021 - 13:40

In 2019, parliament refused to release the payment - intended to reduce economic and social inequalities between old and new EU countries – until the EU ended discriminatory practices against Switzerland.

Switzerland is not part of the EU but contributes to the cohesion fund as part of its bilateral agreements with the 27-nation bloc. A long-running spat between the Brussels and Bern over the future of bilateral ties led to the payment being suspended after the EU banned the Swiss stock market from selling EU company shares.

Despite ending the seven-year institutional framework negotiations last week, the Swiss government has now offered an olive branch. It says it will try to persuade parliament in the autumn to release the funds.

Exactly how it will frame the request is unclear, but it will hinge on the EU agreeing to sign a memorandum of understanding “which sets out the parameters for the implementation of the second contribution”.

“In implementing the contribution, the Federal Council wishes to underscore, following its decision to end the negotiations on the institutional agreement, that Switzerland will remain a reliable partner of the EU in the future,” a press releaseExternal link declared on Friday.

“The Federal Council remains committed to ensuring that Switzerland is not discriminated against and, among other things, is not treated differently from other third countries in EU equivalence processes.”

In a newspaper interview last weekend, Swiss president Guy Parmelin urged the EU to play fair following the end of official negotiations between the two sides.

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