chapter  11
13 Pages

Back to the future: the first round of bilateral negotiations with the EU


In January 1993, the Federal Council submitted to the EU a list of 15 issues that could be put on the negotiation agenda. Fearing that Switzerland would use the bilateral talks to have its cake and eat it, the EC made it clear from the outset that it would refuse a piecemeal approach, and that it would modify and reduce the number of issues. The General Affairs Council picked only five issues (public procurement, technical barriers to trade, research, road transportation and air transportation), and added two other issues of particular interest to some member states (agriculture and the free movement of persons). In addition, the EU insisted on the “parallelism of the talks”, i.e. that any agreement (both for signature and ratification) on a given topic was dependent on the acceptance of an agreement in the other issue areas. Thus, if one element was rejected by the Swiss, the whole package would fall. Given the EEA experience, the EU wanted to protect itself against a possible new popular rejection that would hurt the overall balance of concessions. Negotiations started in December 1994 and ended, after a painful process, in December 1998 leading to the signature of the seven agreements in Luxembourg on 21 June 1999. Although Switzerland had to make several concessions, going back to the “old” recipe of bilateralism turned

out to bring to Switzerland decent, second-best, results in its relationship with the EU. As we will demonstrate, the combination on the Swiss side of sound negotiation tactics at the international level and intensive domestic corporatist efforts helped to achieve such an outcome.