The coronavirus, surprise guest in Swiss-EU relations

The bilateral route has proven to be beneficial for Switzerland and the European Union during the pandemic.

© Provided by Tribune de Genève
The bilateral route has proven to be beneficial for Switzerland and the European Union during the pandemic.

The health crisis has confirmed the importance of bilateral agreements with the European Union, according to the 2020 foreign policy report adopted by the Federal Council on Wednesday.

Switzerland’s foreign policy, in particular in its relations with the EU, has been placed under the sign of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The test represented by the crisis has shown the importance of bilateral agreements, notes the adopted report. Wednesday by the Federal Council.

Relations between Switzerland and the EU at the start of the crisis were marked by the blocking of imports of protective equipment. They then improved, making it possible to manage the consequences of the first wave of coronavirus. Switzerland was quickly integrated into the European crisis system. She has also taken care of French patients affected by Covid-19.

This situation confirmed the importance of bilateral agreements with the EU and access to the internal market based on an institutional agreement, according to the 2020 foreign policy report. The agreement on the free movement of people thus guaranteed the availability of health personnel and other cross-border workers working in Switzerland.

Framework agreement to be concluded

The bilateral route has proven to be beneficial for both parties. The Federal Council’s objective for its European policy has not changed. He wants to conclude an institutional agreement, but will sign it only if satisfactory solutions are found.

The issues still unresolved will occupy a central place in relations with the EU in 2021. Measures will be developed if necessary to mitigate the possible negative effects of a lack of agreement.

In terms of foreign policy, the Confederation was also on the bridge in 2020 for the implementation of the largest repatriation operation in its history. Because of the coronavirus, 7,255 people had to be repatriated to Switzerland.

The Schengen system was also called upon, with the temporary reintroduction of border controls. This situation has shown that national well-being requires an effective international framework for action, we can read.

Brexit led to the implementation of the Mind the Gap strategy with the United Kingdom. Seven agreements have been negotiated with the British government within this framework.

At the international level, Switzerland has readjusted its development aid programs in the context of the health crisis. She has also been called upon in peace processes, accompanying 17 procedures and supporting peace efforts in Libya, Cameroon and Ukraine.

Applications on track

Preparatory work for Switzerland’s candidacy for the United Nations Security Council for the period 2023-2024 has progressed. The Federal Council also proposed the candidacy of the Swiss Philipp Hildebrand to succeed the Secretary General of the OECD, in order to strengthen the organization.

Switzerland has also agreed, with 22 other WTO members, to set up a provisional appeal procedure within the framework of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. She was invited for the first time to participate in all the work of the G20 and worked on the financial side for the fifth time in a row.

Despite the persistence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government will continue to achieve the objectives of its 2020-2023 foreign policy strategy. In January, he adopted the strategy for sub-Saharan Africa and other programs are being drawn up, concerning China, America or arms control and disarmament.

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