EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s priorities for 2021?
Each December, the Swiss government releases its ‘to-do’ list, outlining its most important objectives for the following year.
For 2021, its main goals include matters ranging from health and finances to negotiations with the European Union.
Here are five of the primary issues the Federal Council will focus on in 2021:
Curbing the spread of coronavirus infections
Not surprisingly, the main objective for 2021 “remains the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the mitigation of its effects", the Federal Council said.
The government doesn’t outline any specific measures or restrictions, as they will depend on the epidemiological situation in the country at any given time.
However, one of its main priorities remains the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
Switzerland ordered approximately 13 million doses from three manufacturers: Moderna (4.5 million doses), AstraZeneca (5.3 million) and Pfizer (3 million ).
That is enough to vaccinate 6 million people out of Switzerland’s total population of 8.5 million, as the vaccine has to be given in two doses.
The main objectives of the vaccine are to lower the number of severe cases, to maintain the capacity of the health system, and to reduce the economic consequences of the disease, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said.
So far, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in Switzerland. If the two other vaccines (Moderna and AstraZeneca) get the green light from the country’s drug authorisation agency, Swissmedic, the pace of inoculations should pick up.
Creating legislation to manage the debt caused by the coronavirus crisis
The government has spent more than 35 billion francs to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on various industries.
The aim of the new law “is to reduce the debt without hampering the economic recovery and ensuring that a constant financial policy is maintained”, the Federal Council said.
Reforming health insurance
Swiss health insurance is notoriously expensive and its costs are rising every year. One of the reasons is the high price of medications, even those whose patent has expired.
In 2021, the Federal Council will prepare a modification of the mandatory health insurance (LAMal) as part of the cost reduction strategy.
The main objectives of this revision are to lower the price of medications and to better coordinate the delivery of healthcare services.
Choosing new fighter jets
On September 27th, 2020, Swiss voters approved by a thin margin the government’s proposal to spend 6 billion francs on new fighter jets.
The Federal Council argued that current jet fighters used by the Swiss Air Force are either old or already obsolete, and the country needs newer models to protect its airspace.
However, the decision on where to purchase the new jets remains to be made.
A poll taken after the vote shows that most Swiss don’t want American-made planes, preferring ones manufactured in Europe.
But the majority of respondents said the government should ultimately choose where to buy the jets — the decision that authorities will make in 2021.
Negotiating an agreement with the European Union
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it has negotiated 120 bilateral treaties and arrangements with Brussels over the 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 framework agreement’ draft which “intends to put the established bilateral approach on a solid and sustainable basis and enable its development".
The government intends to start the negotiations with Brussels this year.