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Switzerland in new row with EU over ‘discriminatory’ market access

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Switzerland in new row with EU over ‘discriminatory’ market access
Swiss President Doris Leuthard. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
11:52 CET+01:00
Swiss President Doris Leuthard on Thursday slammed the EU’s decision to limit Swiss financial access to its markets as “discriminatory”.
Leuthard was reacting to the news that the EU intends to place a one-year limit on Swiss stock exchange equivalency to EU markets because the two parties haven’t yet made any significant progress on an institutional framework agreement.
 
Legal and supervisory equivalence between the Swiss and EU financial markets is necessary so that European banks and investors can continue to have access to the Swiss stock exchange from January 3rd, after new European financial regulations come into effect.
 
In a statement on Thursday Leuthard said Switzerland had fulfilled the same conditions for recognition of stock market equivalence as other third states (non-EU members) who have obtained unlimited access.
 
“We therefore consider that limited recognition is discriminatory towards Switzerland,” she said.
 
What’s more, it is “unjustified and unacceptable” to link market access to the negotiations over an institutional framework, Leuthard added.
 
In a press release the Swiss stock exchange (SIX) said: “In recent months, the necessary steps were undertaken to ensure that SIX Swiss Exchange attains the status of an equivalent third-country trading venue.” 
 
“SIX acknowledges that the EU Commission thereby recognises in principle the equivalence of the Swiss legal framework. SIX does, however, regret the temporary nature of the decision and is working on the assumption that equal value will be definitively recognized at a later date.”
 
The EU’s snub comes shortly after Switzerland agreed to pledge an additional 1.3 billion francs to the EU cohesion fund, something the Swiss government may now reconsider, its spokesman told the media.
 
The bloc’s decision “strains bilateral relations” on many other matters, Leuthard’s statement added. 
 
Relations between the EU and Switzerland have only recently recovered after a period of tension over the Swiss people’s 2014 vote in favour of immigration quotas, something which would have contravened its free movement agreement with the EU.
 
Since the Swiss government effectively backtracked on the idea a year ago, the two parties have resumed negotiations over a framework agreement, which aims to resolve certain institutional questions regarding Switzerland's bilateral arrangements with the EU, for example the role of EU courts in dispute resolution.
 
However little progress has been made and Leuthard and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in November said an agreement would not be reached this year. 
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