At the anniversary celebrations, Federal Councillor Calmy-Rey gave a fundamentally positive assessment of relations between Switzerland and the EU. She said that while the “bilateral way” that Switzerland adopts in its policy on the European Union was becoming more difficult to pursue, it had brought good results for both sides.
She went on to point out that while cooperation in the fields of for example economic affairs, science and research, security and sustainable development has been very good, on the issue of sovereignty the results have to be seen in a more differentiated light. Mrs Calmy-Rey suggested that “One of the main challenges of our future bilateral partnership will be to determine the necessary conditions for efficient economic cooperation while guaranteeing that Switzerland, as a non-member of the EU, can exercise sufficient autonomy in its decision making.”
A 50-year policy of safeguarding interests
With the founding of the European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) in 1959, the issue arose of how to conduct relations with the European Economic Community (EEC), which was established in 1957. The EFTA founding members decided to appoint official representatives to the EEC. In September 1959, the Federal Council decided to accredit an official Swiss representative to the EEC and to open an office in Brussels. The Brussels Office became operational in 1960. Later, it became the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the European Union.
The tasks of the Mission are basically the same today as they were 50 years ago: to follow the development of the EU, to establish contacts, to foster relations, and to defend Switzerland’s interests. The importance and scope of these tasks have changed considerably since then, however. In the past half century, the Mission and the people working there have not only been witnesses of the turbulent history of the EU and its relations with Switzerland, they have been directly involved. The conclusion of the Free-Trade Agreement in 1972, the rejection of the European Economic Area in 1992, and the subsequent negotiation of, to date, more than 20 main bilateral agreements together with numerous other bilateral sector agreements have been major steps in the relationship over the last 50 years.
The scope of the Mission’s activities is determined by the Federal Council’s policy on the European Union. In August, the Federal Council decided that Switzerland’s relationship with the EU would continue on the basis of bilateral sector agreements.
Daniel Klingele, Swiss Mission to the EU, Information, mobile +32 473 98 34 20
Adrian Sollberger, FDFA Information, mobile +41 79 301 62 84
Address for enquiries:
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47