The EFTA trade alliance is preparing the contingency plans in case Britain leaves the European Union without a deal on its future ties with Brussels, EFTA’s secretary general told a Swiss newspaper.
“We cannot rule out a no-deal scenario until the last moment. Therefore, all parties must take precautions to minimize disruption of economic and financial flows and to secure the essential rights and obligations of citizens in such a case. This also applies to the EFTA states,” Henri Getaz, a Swiss diplomat, told the Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
“Such arrangements are currently being prepared. We are aware that some circles in London are promoting the idea of joining EFTA or European Economic Area (EEA). But that does not match the position of the British government, which has rejected the option and taken a different line,” he was quoted as saying in an interview.
Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein comprise the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA.
Prospects for a new treaty formalising ties between Switzerland and the European Union, its biggest trading partner, appeared bleak after four years of negotiations failed to produce a effect by the EU mid-October deadline.
The talks are complicated by the UK negotiations on departure terms from the European Union, with the Commission being reluctant to be too flexible to the Swiss demands, setting a precedent for Britons.
“I can honestly say I find it difficult to believe that the government will be able to present by year’s end a solution to all the open questions,” Petra Goessi, leader of the pro-business Liberals party in the four-party cabinet, told the Neue Zuercher Zeitungn paper.
Brussels has been mounting pressure on Switzerland to agree on a frame that would assemble the 120 accords in different sectors and subsequently lead the Swiss to endorse changes to adapt to Single market.
It would aim at aligning to five areas of the Single market: free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods.
The treaty would also provide a more powers to the EU while resolving disputes, and providing clarity of procedures.
Should treaty talks fail, and time is short ahead of elections in Switzerland and for the European Parliament both due next year, the existing accords would stay in place, but bilateral EU-Swiss ties would enter a low-tide phase.
The fate of the EUR1.3 billion Swiss donation to EU cohesion fund to develop the EU Eastern member-states was unclear since last year. Although Swiss politicians deny the tit-for-tat approach there is a clear correlation between funds donation and opportunities for Helvetic banks in operating within euro zone.
The Vatican has called a conference of exerts in an attempt to recover “the world’s most wanted painting”, a Nativity by Caravaggio brutally stolen from a Palermo church allegedly by the Mafia 39 years ago, the day after it was phrased in a TV show about ‘forgotten‘ art treasures. Recently the investigators made a trip to an unspecified city in Eastern Europe in connection with their enquiries, suggesting that there might be a recovery of the masterpiece soon.
The meeting at Palazzo della Cancelleria aims to “put the Nativity at the centre of international debate so that the painting can finally be found”. The priceless painting by Caravaggio was first believed to have been destroyed shortly after it disappeared in 1969.
However the investigators say is actually still intact and could be hidden somewhere in Eastern Europe, while earlier this year there was an information about traces of it in Switzerland.
Police specialised in hunting down stolen art have come upon traces of the work and are convinced it is still in one piece, Colonel Fernando Musella of the Carabinieri police told a press conference
Russian Representation to the EU reacted upon the declaration of the European External Action Service on the 10th anniversary of the “conflict between Russia and Georgia“.
“…Above-mentioned EU Declaration leaves a strange impression – as if very recent history has been universally forgotten, providing a blank space to write it anew. Starting with its title, referring to the «conflict between Russia and Georgia», thus distorting the picture of what really happened in August 2008”, Russian diplomats wrote.
“It is therefore worth reminding tht on the night of 7 August 2008 Georgian military forces launched a large-scale attack on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinval,devastating the city. At the same time, they attacked Russianpeacekeepers deployed in South Ossetia with Georgia’s agreement within the framework of an internationally recognised settlement mechanism. Ten Russian soldiers were killed and forty wounded. Hundreds of local civilians were massacred, thousands left homeless. Somehow, the EU saw fit not to mention this fact, focusing instead on the Georgian ‘”thriving economy” and portraying it as a “model of democratic stability”.
“In the light of direct threat to Russian citizens in South Ossetia and to avoid a genocide of the people of the Republic, the Russian Federation had no other option but to use its armed forces to enforce peace.
“Meanwhile many wrongdoings of the Government of Mikheil Saakashvili, including the fact of a large-scale military aggression against peaceful South Ossetia launched on 7-8 August 2008, thus breaching the agreement on a peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, as well as its own promises were later officially confirmed on a number of occasions, including in the report published in autumn 2009 by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, chaired by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini (Switzerland) and established by the EU Council decision.”
“We are appalled by such a short and selective memory displayed by the EU and hope that the EU will refrain from ungrounded and politicised statements in the future” – the comment of Russian Mission continues.
The comment was issued as a response on European Actions Service declaration on the 10 years anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, describing Russian military presence there as ‘unfortunate‘:
“…Unfortunately, Russian military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia continues in violation of international law and commitments undertaken by Russia under the 12 August 2008 agreement, mediated by the European Union” the EEAS statement said.
Switzerland has upgraded its place from seventh to fifth in this year’s World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries compiled by Reporters without Borders (RSF). However, the Swiss ascendance has taken place in a deteriorating environment for journalists worldwide, including in Europe.
Prem Samy, responsible for the index at RSF, says there are two major reasons behind Swiss upgrade: “This year was a bit more optimistic for Switzerland, because the No Billag initiative, which was a threat to public TV and radio, was rejected by referendum,” he told swissinfo.ch.
The second reason is “purely mechanical”, Smay continued, because in the context of the countries like Costa Rica and Denmark dropping down, others move up.
While the “No Billag” initiative was a “threat that didn’t happen in the end”, Samy concluded the Swiss context “is still a bit dangerous in terms of pluralism and the restructuring that is coming, especially for ATS (the Swiss News Agency)”.
RSF says this year report reflects “growing animosity towards journalists” and the fact that “hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries like Turkey and Egypt.”
“More and more democratically elected leaders see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” it continues.
In the aftermath of the EU decision to limit the access to financial exchanges to Swiss , the Alpine country plunged into serious reflection over the future of the relations between the neighbours. The new President of Swiss Confederation Alain Berset said there was a presumption Brussels will also make a gesture towards the Helvetic partners, while receiving pledged 1,3 billion francs of Swiss aid to EU cohesion funds to poorest bloc’s members for the second time.
“While everything was going well in November, we did not want to make an explicit link between the billion cohesion (fund) and the institutional framework agreement. It seems legitimate that Swiss contribute to interior cohesion of the EU because they have a certain access to the European market. But we will discuss again this issue in nearest future”, the President ensured in his extensive interview in SwissInfo.
The doubts and concerns over the future of the relations with the EU were expressed across the political spectrum, wording the legitimate concerns, Albert Rösti, leading the right-wing Swiss People’s party, accused the EU of having “colonial-style” policies.
“The EU wants Switzerland to automatically take over EU law. In disputes, the European Court of Justice should decide. Failure to comply may result in the EU taking penalties vis-à-vis Switzerland” – Rösti said.
The relations started to erode the end of last year, when the EU granted Swiss stock exchanges only limited access to its market, prompting Swiss reactions of retaliation for what is regarded as discrimination of the Helvetic Confederation.
The vision has been discussed across the political spectrum, assembling support to Leuthard proposal for referendum.
A referendum in Switzerland considering the clarification of the citizens attitude towards relationship with the European Union would be helpful, Swiss President Doris Leuthard said on Sunday, after ties between the two sides cooled this week.
Switzerland presumes the European Union is out to undermine its financial industry by granting Swiss stock exchanges only a temporary regulatory green light.
Earlier President Doris Leuthard said the EU’s decision to allow cross-border stock trading for just a year — rather than on the indefinite basis accorded to other countries — was a “clear case of discrimination” that risked “harming bilateral relations on other important dossiers.”
“Switzerland fulfills the conditions for recognition of stock market equivalence every bit as much as the other third countries that have been granted indefinite recognition,” Leuthard said at a press conference.