Press has mixed feelings on Swiss-EU entente

An iron fist in a velvet glove: that’s what one newspaper thought of Leuthard’s EU efforts


The Swiss media have welcomed the announcement that Swiss-EU negotiations have been “unblocked” but warn that the road ahead will not be a smooth one.

“Appearances are deceptive”external link was the title of the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger’s opinon piece. The good news is that Bern and Brussels would be talking about all the dossiers with immediate effect, it said, referring to the pledge made by Swiss President Doris Leuthard and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday.

Switzerland’s relations with the EU had cooled after the Swiss decision to impose immigration quotas on workers from the bloc.

But the bad news was that the, “EU is now even more strongly than before making the future of the bilateral path dependent on the conclusion of the institutional framework agreement”, wrote the newspaper.

Framework agreement: ramifications

The Swiss want the framework agreementexternal link to preserve Switzerland’s independence and legal system, as well as to provide legal certainty in the area of market access, but Swiss conservatives fear any compromise would see Brussels impose binding rules and regulations on Bern.

Therefore any agreement is going to have a tough time winning acceptance in Switzerland, plus Juncker is also under pressure from eastern member states over financing, and from Swiss neighbours France and Italy over immigration quotas.

It is Switzerland who is really the main stumbling block to future progress, was the opinion of the French-speaking Le Tempsexternal link and the tabloid Blickexternal link.

All the conservative-leaning parties – those of the centre-right as well as the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, which has made it a key issue – reject the framework agreement, pointed out Blick.

Bern and Brussels’ announcement was pure “political marketing”, it argued.

The pub and the neighbours

“The true fight is not at the negotiating table, it’s in the pub. And there is no breakthrough in sight,” it said.

Le Temps took a flight of fancy, comparing Swiss-EU relations to well-intentioned neighbours: “When you have drink together, you have a nice time – even if sometimes the way your neighbour parks his car in the street is annoying – and you dream of improving your relationship. But not in Switzerland.”

It’s conservative-leaning parties who are torpedoing efforts which could have turned to Switzerland’s advantage, intoned the opinion piece writer. “Is this very liberal programme so very frightening?” it asked.

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the “deblocking” was simply still “fuzzy”.external link  What does it mean exactly, wondered the newspaper: there was never a formal blockade from the EU, there has never been a list of “blocked” dossiers and not all the dossiers are affected by the immigration quotas, it pointed out.

Switzerland’s iron lady

The Tribune de Genèvetook a different tackexternal link: it praised president Leuthard for getting “the right tone” with the EU. Having secured the deblocking, she could be all smiles. “But instead kept a stiff upper lip, showing a rather severe expression, hammering home that Switzerland wasn’t a second-rate partner for the EU and that she expected proper treatment”.

The newspaper was surprised by Leuthard’s stance, after ten years in office. Power hasn’t gone to her head, but “she advances her dossiers with an iron fist in a velvet glove”.

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