What is the ‘framework agreement’ in question?
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it has negotiated 120 bilateral treaties and arrangements with Brussels over 18 years .
Among them are agreements on free movement of people, trade, exchange of information, agriculture, research, environment, police cooperation and asylum coordination, civil aviation, road transport, tourism, education, and pensions.
Once signed, these agreements are subject to European law. But the problem is that when European law evolves, Swiss legislation remains the same.
Generally, Switzerland adapts to these changes, but it is free to refuse certain elements of European law, which then gives rise to lengthy negotiations.
The EU has been asking Switzerland for 10 years to find a solution, so that the agreements are managed in a more “automatic” way.
Swiss authorities have now come up with an ‘institutional’ agreement’ draft which “intends to put the established bilateral approach on a solid and sustainable basis and enable its development’, authorities said.
President Simonetta Sommaruga has presented the confidential plan on Thursday to her European Commission counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen.
However, the Swiss have not so far provided sufficient details of their proposal, von der Leyen said.
President @s_sommaruga called me this morning to inform me of the Federal Council’s position on the next steps on the ????Institutional Framework Agreement.
I took note and await further details. We need to make progress towards signing the IFA. pic.twitter.com/Xllz4A0I2I
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 12, 2020
Why is there opposition to this agreement in Switzerland?
A new movement, Autonomiesuisse, which in French means ‘Swiss Autonomy’, argues that “the current framework agreement jeopardizes the Swiss model of success”.
The organisation objects to the draft framework because in it the EU “assumes the role of stakeholder, supervisory authority and arbiter, which marks the end of the classic bilateral path”.
“In fact, Switzerland submits to European law on matters relating to the internal market, while the EU defines what matters relate to the internal market,” the group claims.
Tragen auch Sie zu einer freien und erfolgreichen Schweiz bei und werden Sie Mitglied! pic.twitter.com/1TzsegSsvZ
— autonomiesuisse (@autonomiesuisse) November 13, 2020
What does Autonomiesuisse propose?
The organisation believes that the framework agreement should be subject to a mandatory referendum, because “it infringes on constitutional rights and limits the long-term sovereignty” of Switzerland.
In its letter to the EU, the government already stated that “popular participation is an essential component of Switzerland’s policymaking”.
“Without the support and engagement of Swiss citizens, government action is unsustainable. With this in mind, it is worth recalling that the institutional agreement will almost certainly be submitted to a popular vote”, authorities added.