Framework agreement did not fit Switzerland’s practice of neutrality

Letter to a friend, a senior EU official

by Ivo Rens, Honorary Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva*

Dear friend,

I have received your letter of 3 June in which you express your surprise at Switzerland’s abandonment of the draft Framework Agreement that had been negotiated for years between Switzerland and the European Union. As a faithful reader of the Swiss newspaper “Le Temps”, you are inclined to think, with it, that the Federal Council has made a huge blunder by de facto disavowing its negotiators since 2013 and by disavowing itself for the same period.
  No doubt there were mistakes made by the Swiss negotiators during these negotiations and, one day, light will have to be shed on the real culprits, probably among the successive Federal Councillors in charge of foreign affairs in Bern. But there are also, it seems to me, mistakes made by the EU negotiators who, through a legal trick, have obtained that the Court of Justice of the European Union becomes the ultimate arbiter of disputes that may arise between the parties. In doing so, the draft Framework Agreement was a trap door for Swiss sovereignty.
  The EU negotiators do not seem to have measured all the consequences of this disappearance. I am not only thinking of the programmed marginalisation of the institutions of semi-direct democracy practised in Switzerland, but above all of the international consequences of the disappearance of a practice of neutrality, unique in international law, which meant that Switzerland was chosen by Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin to meet on its soil on 16 June, as so many other representatives of states in conflict or in delicacy have done since the Second World War. The international status of this neutrality is linked to the sovereignty of the Swiss Confederation.
  There is one consequence of this project that has hardly ever been brought to public attention, namely the gradual dismemberment of international Geneva that will eventually lead to the programmed disappearance of Swiss neutrality, which is dependent on Swiss sovereignty. Of course, not all international institutions would disappear from Geneva overnight and perhaps some, such as the ICRC, are still there. But other cities around the world would soon assert their international claims and even advantages, for example Singapore.
  Singapore has the advantage of being located in a region of the world that is booming economically and politically, in cultural osmosis with the Chinese giant to which it is not subservient. Even if it is in the cultural and geopolitical order, is it indifferent to the European Union that Singapore, for example, replaces International Geneva? It seems to me that the question deserves at the very least to be asked and debated by the European Union's governing bodies, which, as far as I know, has not been the case.
  These, my dear friend, are some of my thoughts on Berne’s wise decision to abandon the draft Framework Agreement with the European Union. Of course, it is important for Switzerland and the European Union to safeguard their countless economic and social relations by finding a new, mutually acceptable modus vivendi, and therefore free of any trickery (sans escobarderie)!

Best wishes,
Ivo Renz

(Translation Current Concerns)

* Prof. Dr Ivo Rens, retired honorary professor of the University of Geneva, was a full professor at the University of Geneva until his retirement. He taught at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and at the Sorbonne in Paris, in addition to other international teaching assignments. In the 1960s, he was advisor on constitutional issues to the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, one of the fathers of a united Europe.

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