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Swiss seek sectoral deals, not overall accord, in fresh EU talks

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk along the street after the Swiss government relaxed some of its COVID-19 restrictions, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, at the Bahnhofstrasse shopping street in Zurich, Switzerland March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd W

ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland laid out its negotiating position on Friday for a fresh attempt at rebuilding ties with the European Union that took a severe knock last year when years of talks over a new treaty collapsed.

Brussels has pushed for a treaty that would cap an existing array of bilateral accords and require the Swiss to routinely adopt changes to single market rules. It would also create a more effective mechanism to resolve disputes.

But talks between Bern and its biggest trading partner broke down in May over Swiss concerns about yielding too much sovereignty to the bloc.

After months of domestic wrangling, the Swiss government has now decided to seek a broad new series of sectoral accords instead of an overarching deal.

“The packet of measures may also include new single market agreements for electricity and food safety as well as association agreements for research, health and education,” the cabinet said. It was also prepared to consider continued Swiss financial contributions to less-developed members of the EU.

It was not immediately clear how Brussels would react to the proposal.

The EU’s relationship with Switzerland could fall apart if negotiations over Switzerland’s place in the EU internal market fail, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic had said in December.

A collapse in relations could over time jeopardise Switzerland’s de facto membership of the EU common market that Bern is keen to maintain.

Existing accords will erode over time, as in the case of an agreement on seamless cross-border trade in medical technology products that lapsed last year.

Swiss seek sectoral deals, not overall accord, in fresh EU talks

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