Switzerland pledges €1.1 billion over 10 years to EU in 'cohesion' funds
The Swiss Federal Council has pledged, as part of continuing negotiations with the EU, funds to revive struggling EU economies and assist with migration flows.
The new pledge from Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but allows free movement as part of a bilateral package of agreements from 1999, will be used in five specific areas.
"To promote economic growth and social partnership, and reduce unemployment, especially among young people; manage migration flows, promote integration and strengthen public security; protect the environment and address climate change; strengthen health and social security systems and promote civic engagement and transparency," states a Swiss government summary.
The 1.3 billion Swiss francs (€1.14 billion), an additional to Switzerland's similar existing contribution to "EU enlargement funds," will be used to cover the costs of vocational skills training courses but also to allow for "Swiss expertise" to provide assistance in certain situations.
The "contribution will also enable Switzerland to strengthen and deepen its bilateral relations with partner countries and the EU as a whole – an objective whose importance the Federal Council has repeatedly emphasised," states the Swiss government on September 28th.
Relations between the Swiss government and the EU are governed by an array of bilateral contracts but the partnership turned sour after Swiss voters in 2014 approved a popular initiative calling for quotas on immigration.
The decision to increase the country's funding to the EU comes after the Federal Council and cantons widely agreed to strengthen relations during talks held over the summer of 2018.
Marginal Swiss political parties have called for Switzerland to renegotiate its current agreement to curb EU migration, although that has not resulted in a 'Swiss exit'. The wider political consensus seems to be for a maintenance of the status quo.
"Following talks held this summer with the social partners and the cantons, the Federal Council concluded that opinions differed widely and there was no consensus in Switzerland which would warrant changing the current negotiating position," adds the government's statement.
Ideologically, the Swiss government argues that "in order to safeguard its prosperity in the long term, Switzerland depends on a secure, stable and prosperous Europe. It therefore has a vital interest in continuing to use its expertise to strengthen European cohesion and improve the management of migration flows."
The Swiss government has also adopted a series of measures that will allow it to bilaterally implement new asylum procedures with several EU member states, adds the communiqué.