Switzerland and the European Union – in search of an enlarged home-market

with Alois Ochsner, Economist, former consultant at the Swiss Mission to the EU
Speaker profile 15.03.17 Alois Ochsner


Passing through the history of this relationship, the diverging approaches are striking. While Switzerland is concentrating on the purely economic facet of European integration, the perspective of the European Union is more holistic and political. However, a large network of ties could be elaborated over the years. Switzerland calls this “the bilateral track”. Its bases are a classical free-trade agreement dating from the seventies. After the Swiss no to a large bridging agreement called European Economic Area in 1992, two packages of bilateral agreements in 1999 and 2004, the Bilateral 1 and 2, could be negotiated. In this set-up the Agreement on the free movement of persons plays a key role. This agreement liberalised the Swiss labour market, permitting a free hiring of EU-staff by the end of a transitional phase. This contrasts with the rigid system of quotas and indigenous preference that had existed before since the seventies. The AFMP also allows a partial provision of certain trans-border services. The insistence of the EU on the need of homogeneity of the internal market, requiring stricter institutional rules, is hindering further sectoral agreements, e.g. on electricity or financial services. After the acceptance of the popular initiative against mass-immigration in 2014 awaiting implementation, contacts between Berne and Brussels are more or less on hold. What does this mean for the economy in Switzerland and its labour-market? The Brexit-vote in the UK further complicates the search for possible compromises between Berne and Brussels. The exchange-rate of the €/CHF mirrors a perceived critical state of the EU as a whole. With Trump as new president of the USA tying back globalization, the EU as Switzerland’s principal and surrounding partner appears to have become even more inescapable. The overall degree of uncertainty seems very high nowadays, thus disturbing economy.

Date: 15/03/2017
Time: 11:30 - 13:30
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Esther Martin
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