On Thursday, 7 July, Council of States member Benedikt Würth (The Centre, SG) attended a meeting in Strasbourg of the European Parliament delegation responsible for relations with Switzerland at the invitation of MEP Andreas Schwab. Benedikt Würth is president of the Federal Assembly delegation responsible for relations with the European Union.

The delegations of the Federal Assembly and the European Parliament meet regularly to discuss the state of bilateral relations. At the invitation of MEP Andreas Schwab, Council of States member Benedikt Würth was previously able to attend a meeting of the DEEA Delegation on 4 May. At the follow-up meeting on 7 July, the focus was again on the exploratory talks between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) and Switzerland’s non-association to Horizon Europe.

With regard to exploratory talks on the Federal Council's package proposal, Mr Würth underlined Switzerland's willingness to move from a static functioning of the bilateral market access agreements to dynamic adoption of EU law. Switzerland also recognised that a dispute settlement mechanism would have to take into account the interpretative sovereignty of the European Court of Justice with regard to EU law. However, in order to be able to protect its interests as a non-EU member, Switzerland in return requires certain exceptions and safeguard clauses in key areas. These include the agreement on the free movement of persons, which is particularly delicate in terms of domestic policy, and specifically the areas of posted workers and the EU citizenship directive. In view of the letter from the EU chief negotiator, which has become public, the European Commission's attitude in this regard has hardened since negotiations on the institutional agreement, which is incomprehensible. A flexible stance on the part of the EU is crucial if the outcome of any future negotiations is to gain majority support in Switzerland.

In terms of the EU's Horizon Europe research programme, Mr Würth pointed out the obvious common interest in continuing the well-established bilateral cooperation. The Swiss research centre is extremely internationally oriented and benefits from networking at the European level. At the same time, strongly performing Swiss universities can make an important contribution to Europe's ability to hold its own in global competition as a location for research and innovation. This view is shared by European universities and the European research community.

Mr Würth also referred to a communication from the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) published in mid-June by the AFET rapporteur for relations with Switzerland, MEP Lukas Mandl, and the four shadow rapporteurs. He welcomed this initiative to intensify bilateral exchanges of views at parliamentary level and was pleased with the cross-party support from the five political groups.

The annual Switzerland-EU inter-parliamentary meeting scheduled to take place on 6 and 7 October in Rapperswil-Jona and at the ETH in Zurich will provide a further opportunity for exchanges between the Federal Assembly and the European Parliament. At the meeting yesterday, the two delegation presidents Andreas Schwab and Benedikt Würth agreed to invite experts from both sides to the October meeting who can provide information on the contentious issues in the area of the free movement of persons. This should enable the parliamentarians to examine the positions in detail and discuss possible solutions in the course of discussions with the experts.