The interparliamentary meeting was hosted by the EFTA/EU Delegation of the Federal Assembly, which regularly meets in this format with the Delegation of the European Parliament for Relations with Switzerland (DEEA), most recently in Brussels in
2023 and in Rapperswil-Jona in
2022. This year's meeting provided an opportunity to exchange views at parliamentary level on the current status of consultations on the negotiating mandate and the common understanding between Switzerland and the EU. Under the joint chairmanship of National Council member Thomas Aeschi (SVP, ZG) and MEP Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany), the parliamentarians discussed the current status of the negotiating mandate and the Common Understanding between Switzerland and the EU in the presence of representatives of the Federal Administration (Ambassador Stephan Lauper, FDFA) and the European Commission (Sofia Asteriadi, Deputy Head of Cabinet of Vice President Maroš Šefčovič), the parliamentarians discussed the package approach, which is intended to address the outstanding issues in the overall relationship between Switzerland and the EU.
Delegation president Thomas Aeschi emphasised that the meeting provided an opportunity to gain an insight into domestic policy issues currently being debated in Switzerland as part of the consultation process. To this end, representatives of key Swiss interest groups were heard, namely the Secretary General of the Conference of Cantons, Roland Mayer, the chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, Daniel Lampart, and the head of foreign trade at Economiesuisse, Jan Atteslander. The discussion focused on issues relating to wage protection, state aid and the dispute settlement mechanism, as well as immigration and a future electricity agreement.
MEP Andreas Schwab emphasised the importance of the parliamentary exchange and expressed the hope that both parties would soon be able to adopt their mandates and begin official negotiations.
In the debate that followed the large majority of participants saw the results of the exploratory talks as an important step on the way to resolving the outstanding issues and spoke out in favour of the swift commencement of negotiations. It was in the common interest of Switzerland and the EU to put relations on a new footing and clarify the outstanding issues. However, this also requires mutual understanding and accommodation. Other voices expressed some criticism regarding the dynamical alignment to EU law and the role of the EU jurisdiction which – in their view – would infringe Switzerland's independence, the democratic rights of the Swiss people and federalism, in particular cantonal and communal autonomy.
In addition to the debate on the negotiating mandate, the meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the upcoming European elections in June and their potential impact on relations between Switzerland and the EU.
The Federal Assembly was represented at the interparliamentary meeting by Delegation president Thomas Aeschi (SVP, ZG), vice president Damian Müller (FDP, LU), National Council president Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL), National Council members Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (The Centre, BL) and Nicolas Walder (Greens, GE), Council of States members Hannes Germann (SVP, SH), Benedikt Würth (The Centre, SG) and Carlo Sommaruga (SP, GE), as well as the vice president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council, Sibel Arslan (Greens, BS). From the European Parliament, MEPs Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany), Christophe Grudler (Renew, France), Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, Poland) and Lukas Mandl (EPP, Austria) took part.
The 43rd interparliamentary meeting in Bern, co-chaired by National Counil Thomas aeschi (SVP, ZG) and MEP Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany)
The Common Understanding Switzerland-EU on possible upcoming negotiations and the next elections to the European Parliament in June 2024 were at the centre of the discussions.
Sofia Asteriadi, Deputy Head of Cabinet of Vice-President Šefčovič, explained the European Commission's perspective
Participating MPs from the Swiss and European Parliaments as well as Ambassador Rita Adam and Ambassador Petros Mavromichalis.
The participants listened to Ambassador Rita Adam's presentation on the potential impact of the European parliamentary elections on relations between Switzerland and the EU.
In addition to the delegation president Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE), Christophe Grudler (Renew, FR), Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, PL) and Lukas Mandl (EPP, AT) took part on the European side.
The interparliamentary meeting was attended also by representatives of economiesuisse (Jan Atteslander), the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (Daniel Lampart) and the cantons (Roland Mayer, not pictured).
The two delegation presidents, National Councillor Thomas Aeschi (SVP, ZG) and Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE)