That me and Switzerland have been embroiled in multiple disputes over the years, and are still negotiating the terms of their cooperation to this day. Bern and Brussels are currently trying to come up with an institutional framework agreement. Partnership negotiations began in 2014, but are still reaching formal conclusions as disagreements over agriculture, trade and the stock market brought talks to a halt. Switzerland and the EU are still working together on a patchwork of 120 agreements – in part because the country withdrew its application to join the EU in 2016.
Bern made the decision just one week before England chose to leave the bloc.
After the decision to drop his application to join the EU in 2016, Swiss politician Filippo Lombardi of the Christian People’s Democratic Party said it was “not very smart to talk about it anymore” and called the whole thing “a little ridiculous”.
Thomas Minder, Schaffhausen state councilor and active promoter of the ‘Swissness’ concept, said at the time he was eager to “close the topic quickly and painlessly” because only “some crazy people” might want to join the EU now.
Switzerland began its application to join the EU in 1992, but this sparked more than two decades of chaotic relations and was repeatedly hit against the bloc’s ambitions.
A few months after the process started, Switzerland held a referendum on whether to join the European Economic Area (EEA) with which the country firmly decided to reject the idea.
The result sent shock waves across Europe, as 50.3 per cent chose not to join the EEA, abandoning any hopes of EU expansion.
Not only did the Swiss public reject the EEA, but it also meant the country’s application to the EU was suspended.
Rene Felber, then President of the Federal Council in Bern, said at the time: “This ordeal provoked the Swiss Government to suspend its application for EU membership.
Swiss voters strongly rejected proposals for immediate membership talks.
Switzerland continues to clash with the EU over stock market trading after Brussels ceased to recognize the country’s equality in 2019, meaning investment companies in the EU are no longer allowed to trade on the Swiss stock exchange.
Switzerland retaliated by banning trading in Swiss stocks on the EU market.
Jos Dijsselhof, CEO of the SIX Group, which runs the SIX Swiss Stock Exchange, warned that the EU could handle the UK in the same way post-Brexi.
He told CNBC: “Switzerland is technically equivalent, the EU has just used this as a political means to hold Switzerland hostage to talk about an overall framework agreement.
“You really saw that the EU’s attitude towards third party countries was getting tougher, and we in Switzerland have seen that, and you saw that in the EU-UK discussions too, so this is an example of how difficult it can be.”
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