The Swiss government last month balked at approving a new draft treaty it had negotiated with the European Union over the past four years, arguing that the deal required public consultation. The decision casts uncertainty on Switzerland’s relationship with the 28-member bloc, which is currently governed by a hodgepodge of over 100 separate agreements. The Swiss government now has until June to endorse the new treaty, but steep domestic opposition makes that difficult, if not impossible, says Clive Church, emeritus professor of European studies at the University of Kent in England. In an email interview with WPR, he discusses the contentious negotiations and why the two sides may ultimately not be able to reconcile their differences.
World Politics Review: Why did Swiss and EU authorities decide it was necessary to craft a new treaty governing relations between them?
Clive Church: The impetus really came from the EU, which decided in 2008 that the existing bilateral system with Switzerland was outdated, inflexible and hard to manage, while also lacking legal certainty and a proper means of resolving disputes. After the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, officials in Brussels probably also felt they should sort out their relations with non-EU neighbors.