European Commission president: 'The Swiss have a completely false view of me'
Tensions between Switzerland and the European Union over a planned institutional framework accord continued to simmer on Wednesday with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker saying the Swiss government was responsible for the current stalemate in the negotiations.
"I have met with the [former] Swiss president [Doris Leuthard] eight times since coming to office and have always indicated that an institutional framework accord is necessary," said Juncker.
"It was promised on many occasions but has not materialised," he added.
"I remain, despite that, a friend of Switzerland – although I have always noticed on holidays that when I met Swiss people, they have dim view of me," said the former Luxembourg prime minister.
"I think the Swiss government and the Swiss media have projected an image of me that in no way corresponds with reality," he said.
The comments came during a Q&A session at the end of a lengthy press conference when Juncker was asked about the state of stalled talks on the thorny issue of an institutional framework accord between the EU and Switzerland.
The framework agreement would resolve certain institutional questions regarding Switzerland's bilateral arrangements with the EU, for example the role of EU courts in dispute resolution.
In November 2017, the then Swiss President Doris Leuthard held a meeting in Bern with EU Commission President Juncker aimed at making progress on the accord, which they had hoped to complete by the end of 2017.
But a month later, the EU pulled out the rug on the talks, saying Swiss stock markets would be only be able to continue trading EU shares for 12 months from January 3rd, which is when new European financial regulations come into effect.
Switzerland had hoped to win the right to an unlimited deal with Leuthard saying the country had fulfilled the same conditions for recognition of stock market equivalence as other third states (non-EU members) who have obtained unlimited access.
A frustrated Leuthard described the decision to limit Swiss access to EU markets as “discriminatory.”
In late January, Swiss Finance minister Ueli Maurer told national daily the NZZ an EU–Switzerland deal should not be expected any time soon, especially with Brexit looming.
Maurer's comments came only days after foreign minister Ignazio Cassis, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, repeated the government's intention to conclude an agreement as soon as possible.