Impatient EU pressures Switzerland to back bilateral deal by June 18th

The European Union on Tuesday called on the Swiss government to act within "coming days" to help clear up ongoing concerns over a crucial draft deal on the future of bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU.

Impatient EU pressures Switzerland to back bilateral deal by June 18th
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would like to see the Swiss-EU deal signed, sealed and delivered before his term in office ends in October. Photo: AFP

The diplomatic but firm response from Brussels came in the form of a letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The president's two-page message (here in French) came a matter of days after the Swiss government called for a number of “clarifications” in relation to a draft deal designed to set the tone for future bilateral relations between Bern and Brussels.

Read also: Explained- why Switzerland won't be signing draft deal with EU (at least for now)

The draft of the so-called “framework agreement” is key to ensuring Switzerland has access to the all-important European single market. But the Swiss government has struggled to sell the deal to stakeholders wary of EU encroachment on Swiss affairs.

In its letter of last week, the Swiss government outlined its three chief concerns with the draft deal. These include concerns about the deal’s possible impact on Switzerland’s tough wage protection measures as well as a question mark over the future of state subsidies and a lack of clarity over whether the Alpine country will eventually have to adopt the EU’s Citizen’s Rights Directive.

In response, Juncker said he was “ready to dispel any doubts” about the framework agreement and was “open to any additional discussions” with Switzerland.

A June 18th deadline

But he said these had to result in “an agreement in coming days in form of one or several joint declarations on the clarifications concerned”.

An EU team would be on hand from “today on” to help deliver the necessary clarifications, Juncker wrote.

Read also: What you need to know about the draft Swiss–EU deal

But the EU Commission president stressed that the current deal “will not be renegotiated” and that any clarifications would need to be made in respect to the “letter and spirit” of the current draft deal.

He stressed it was up to both Switzerland and the EU “to proceed quickly” and sign off on the necessary clarifications so that EU commissioners could evaluate the general state of Swiss–EU relations during a key meeting on June 18th.

In a final note of warning, Juncker said it was impossible to predict what the fate of the framework agreement would be if the deal was not signed before his mandate ends in October.

No mention of stock market equivalence

The letter from the outgoing EU president did not mention the issue of so-called stock market equivalence.

An impatient EU has repeatedly attempted to put pressure on Switzerland to sign on to a framework agreement by threatening to remove its stock market equivalence – a move which would see EU-based trading platforms unable to buy and sell Swiss stocks. 

That equivalence was granted temporarily for 12 months at the end of 2017 and then again for another six months.

The current deadline for an extension to that equivalence is June 30th but the EU will need to act before that if another extension is forthcoming. 

Read also: Swiss residents 'biggest winners' from EU single market

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.