EU humiliated: Bloc’s bitter trading row with Switzerland revealed

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In July 2019, the bloc effectively banned EU-based banks and brokers from trading on Swiss exchanges. The move came after Switzerland refused to back a treaty negotiated over more than four years which would have meant Switzerland routinely adopted changes to EU single market rules, providing a more effective means of settling disputes. Deutsche Welle reported at the time that EU-based brokers and banks usually generate more than half of the turnover on Swiss stock markets, representing a big blow for Brussels and Bern.

Although not directly linked with the partnership treaty, preferential treatment termination was being used by the EU as a bargaining chip to get Switzerland to ratify the deal.

The partnership treaty had been under development from 2014 and was officially known as the Institutional Framework Agreement.

It was supposed to “ensure a more uniform and efficient” governance on issues such as mutual market access and labour movement between Switzerland and bordering EU neighbours.

Although not a member of the EU, Switzerland already has some 20 bilateral agreements with the bloc and even makes a financial contribution.

This is far from the first time Switzerland and the EU have come to blows.

Switzerland began its application to join the EU in 1992, but this sparked over two decades of chaotic relations and recurring blows to the bloc’s ambitions.

Months after the process started, Switzerland had a referendum on whether to join the European Economic Area (EEA) where the country narrowly decided to reject the idea.

The result sent shockwaves through Europe, as 50.3 percent voted against the idea of joining the EEA, leaving the EU’s hopes of expansion dashed.

Not only did the Swiss public reject the EEA, but it also meant the country’s application for the EU was suspended.

After years of tense negotiations between Brussels and Bern regarding their future relationship, Switzerland held another referendum in 2001.

The Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for immediate membership talks with the European Union.

Members of the “New European Movement Switzerland”, which launched the initiative, expressed disappointment at the result.

They said they had not expected such a low “yes” vote.

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Fifteen years later, the EU’s plans were finally dashed.

Not only did the UK vote for Brexit in June 2016, but a week before this politicians in Switzerland voted to withdraw the country’s application for membership of the EU.

Thomas Minder, counsellor for Schaffhausen state and an active promoter of the concept of ‘Swissness,’ said at the time he was eager to “close the topic fast and painlessly” as only “a few lunatics” may want to join the EU now.

A total of 27 members of parliament’s upper house voted to invalidate the application, backing up an earlier decision by the lower house.

Only 13 senators voted against while two abstained.

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