EU not compromising but gives Switzerland time
AFP · 20 Feb 2014, 18:18
Published: 20 Feb 2014 18:18 GMT+01:00
- German professor quits over Swiss 'xenophobia' (19 Feb 14)
- Germany's Merkel comes to Switzerland's defence (18 Feb 14)
- EU freezes research and student exchange funds (16 Feb 14)
- Government in damage control mode after vote (10 Feb 14)
"It is a serious . . . not a minor change which we have to assess calmly," chief operating officer of the EU external affairs service David O'Sullivan said of the referendum outcome.
"Freedom of movement is a fundamental core value" of the European Union and as such is not open for negotiation, O'Sullivan said after talks with Yves Rossier, his counterpart in the Swiss department of foreign affairs.
At the weekend, Brussels suspended Swiss participation in EU research and education programmes after Bern dropped a market access accord with Croatia following the February 9th referendum.
The country voted by a narrow 50.3 percent to curb immigration into the country, a result which put in jeopardy a whole series of agreements with the EU.
The Swiss government has a long time turn the vote into law and O'Sullivan said both sides could use this to see "whether we can move forward."
"We should use this time to discuss the problem and look at the totality of our relationship," he said, adding: "We are friends, we are family."
Rossier said the vote created "a serious problem" but now it was "important to allow things to calm down . . . we must continue to prepare for the future of our relationship."
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but counts the bloc as its main trading partner and its economy is closely intertwined with European and global markets.
The referendum obligates Bern to renegotiate the entire EU labour market deal within three years, with the current rules staying in force in the meantime.