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Swiss foreign minister defends proposed EU deal

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis

Cassis says Switzerland can't expect Brussels to more willing to compromise on a framework agreement in the near future. (Keystone) - Click to enlarge

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has rejected criticism of the results of negotiations with the European Union about a framework accord, encompassing all aspects of political relations between Switzerland and the 28-nation bloc.

Cassis said Switzerland had achieved 80% of its aims during the five-year negotiations and failure to conclude the deal with Brussels now could seriously endanger bilateral ties.

“There is a risk that we will have to accept a worse deal with the EU later,” he told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

Cassis said he was concerned that right- and left-wing populist parties could make major gains in next year’s EU elections, further complicating relations.

However, he added that he had not given up hope that a pragmatic solution could be found that satisfies both the Swiss trade unions and the EU over a controversial easing of restrictions to the Swiss labour market.

In the extended interview, Cassis dismissed criticism by the EU Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, and by political opponents, both from the right and the left in Switzerland.

He argues that Switzerland will benefit from a framework deal as it sets clear legal conditions and protects the country against possible punitive measures by Brussels in case of a dispute.

The government has published the draft accord for consultation among political parties, the cantons and other political organisations ahead of a parliamentary debate.

Full story here
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