For fair bilateralism and the preservation of Swiss DNA in the bilateral relationship

Friends of the EU and opponents of the EU dominate the public debate in Switzerland. Nuances and differentiated statements are largely lost in the battle for the best slogans. We are convinced that a clear majority of the Swiss population thinks constructively and wants Switzerland to have a good relationship with the EU, whilst maintaining Swiss idiosyncrasies. With our narrative, we want to appeal to this silent majority.

We are convinced that the ideals of European enlightenment continue to be of great importance, indeed of increasing importance. This means that preferences of a European section of the population that does not want to be part of the EU are to be accepted in negotiations on the bilateral relationship. We consider it risky to absolutise the homogeneous internal market.

Our Europe is important:

Switzerland is located in the heart of Europe and the European Union (EU). It is as European as all other countries on the continent. The country even has closer economic, cultural and linguistic ties with its neighbours and the EU than most of the other EU member states with each other. A constructive, reliable and viable relationship between Switzerland and the EU is therefore of great benefit to both parties.

It is important to strike the right balance:

Switzerland wants to be treated fairly and as a partner of equal footing by the EU. To do this, the EU has to dispense with shows of force and Switzerland an excessive number of exemptions. The goal is to achieve balanced bilateral relationships that benefit both sides. In reaching this goal, Switzerland does not want to give up its distinctive political features – which play a critical role in the economic and social success of the country. The parallel existence of different political structures will be possible if the political and cultural diversity within Europe is seen as an opportunity to be exploited.

Switzerland is important:

The Swiss population still wants the possibility of deciding their constitution and laws for themselves as before – not only de jure, but also de facto. The federal structures and direct democracy mean political decision-making in Switzerland is a complex and time-consuming undertaking, but also leads to closer relationships with the people. A closer partnership with the EU must not lead to the loss or watering down of these independent structures. Switzerland will always insist on its right to opt out in some cases. Swiss courts of last instance should ultimately make decisions on Switzerland’s own legislation.

People involved:

The following prominent figures are behind the “Fair Bilateralism” platform:

  • Anne Berner, former Finnish minister, board member
  • Georges Baur, senior research fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute, former Assistant Secretary-General at EFTA
  • Heinz M. Buhofer, businessman, former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Metall Zug Group
  • Hans Hess, businessman, former President of Swissmem, Chair of the Board of Directors industry
  • Konrad Hummler, businessman, President of the Civil Society Association, former Chair of the Board of Directors at NZZ
  • Christoph Schaltegger, professor and dean at IWP University of Lucerne, professor at IFF University of St.Gallen
  • Gerhard Schwarz, President of the Progress Foundation, former director at Avenir Suisse, former Deputy Chief Editor at NZZ
  • Oliver Zimmer, historian and author, former Professor of Modern European History at Oxford University (2005 to 2021)

Prof. Michael Ambühl assisted the working group in an advisory capacity.