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Swiss fighter jet document reveals secret French tax offer

France’s last-ditch bid to persaude Switzerland to buy its Rafale fighter jet looks to have failed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

France offered Switzerland a financial sweetener, worth an estimated CHF3.5 billion, to buy its Rafale fighter jets rather than US F-35A aircraft, according to a secret document seen by Swiss public broadcaster SRF.

The document sheds light on background negotiations as Switzerland seeks to replace its ageing fleet of fighter jets. It also adds further fuel to an ongoing argument about whether taxpayers got the best deal for their money.

The CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) F-35A deal was approved by parliament in 2019External link and was rubber stamped by Swiss voters the following year. But the saga did not end there. Another popular initiative, taking aim at the specific choice of aircraft, appears to have gathered enough signatures to force a new referendumExternal link.

But the government has controversially stated that it plans to finally sign off the F-35A procurement contract this year without waiting for the result of this particular voteExternal link.

SRF has now uncovered a secret documentExternal link that shows the bartering was still in full flow last summer, with France determined to persuade Switzerland to change its mind and buy its Rafale jets.

The document was signed by French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on June 28, 2021. Several unnamed sources told SRF that Swiss government ministers not only saw the letter but had actively sought the counteroffer from France.

In the letter, Le Maire offered to recalibrate a Swiss-French deal on taxing cross-border workers in Switzerland’s favour – to the tune of an estimated CHF3.5 billion. He also gave assurances that France would support Switzerland as the Alpine state navigates its way through a difficult patch in its relations with the European Union. But this failed to change Switzerland’s mind.

SRF reports that the negotiations with France have also generated some animosity between the Swiss defence ministry and the foreign and finance ministries – all of which declined to comment, along with the French embassy in Bern and a spokesperson for the cabinet.

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About Swissinfo
SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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