It is interesting to note in EurActiv that the European Union claims it and Switzerland have ironed out their differences to move ahead with a process aimed at simplifying ‘without delay’ the complex network of bilateral agreements governing EU-Swiss relations. But as always with the EU, things are not how they seem.
For according to swissinfo.ch nothing new was achieved. The Swiss Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has made clear in her statements the EU position is that Switzerland must make concessions on its sovereignty in order to retain and improve access to EU markets. However she has been quoted as saying:
Switzerland will never agree to be a de facto member of the EU when it is not taking part in the decision-making process. It is out of the question for Switzerland to adopt community law automatically.
Switzerland is not an EU member state. It is an independent, sovereign nation comprised of cantons which are effectively states within a Swiss federation. As such the cantons have an unrivalled degree of autonomy over taxation and legislation and are democratically accountable to their populations – something the EU bitterly resents. So it is outrageous that the EU position as explained by José Manuel Barroso is that the EU:
… wants a more comprehensive agreement and automatic acceptance by Berne of changes to EU legislation, which the Swiss say would go against the principle of sovereignty.
It is like China saying it has changed a law and so, because Japan is a trading partner, Tokyo must automatically accept it and follow suit. And that because China levies higher taxes, Japan must do the same instead of offering people and businesses an alternative that allows them to keep more of their money.
While a good number of Swiss politicians and diplomats are attracted to the idea of being part of the EU because of what’s in it for them, for the Swiss people the prospect of losing self determination is a price not worth paying. Their resistance continues. As is the case the world over, the interests of the political class are not the same as the interests of ordinary people. What is saving the Swiss people from the EU are their democratic safeguards, something the people of EU member states have sat by and watched their political class subvert and dismantle. Let’s hope the Swiss can prevail where our disengaged populace has so far failed.