Causing the European orchestra to resound

az. How can you cause the European orchestra to resound? This is the central question moving the citizens throughout Europe and having already moved them for more than fifty years. There are voices becoming louder now, which postulate further political steps towards the United States of Europe. They consider this as the only way of stabilising the EU’s situation. At his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Hollande addressed once again the issue of a common economic and fiscal policy. This is now postulated by the Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan as well, a former OECD chief economist. The same tones are coming from the headquarters in Brussels. US President Barack Obama has also endorsed this view. The refugee issue too is to be controlled centrally. And what is Switzerland’s mentality?
Today, Switzerland’s relationship with the European Union is based on two pillars:

  1. The 1972 great Free Trade Agreement (between the EFTA countries and the former EC). It was adopted with 71 per cent Yes-votes by the Swiss people and by all cantons. In the following years, a variety of smaller and larger supplementary agreements have additionally been concluded. About 200 of such agreements are mentioned – especially concerning the service sector.
  2. The Bilateral Agreements I and II of 1999 and of 2004.

The Free Trade Agreement of 1972 is an economic treaty facilitating the exchange of goods (mainly industrial goods) and services. Agriculture was deliberately not included. In contrast, the Bilateral Agreements I and II, include many elements such as the free movement of persons, transit traffic, the opening of borders (Schengen), the asylum system (Dublin) and much more. These are all elements tying Switzerland politically and therefore they are giving these agreements a different and more problematic quality than the former ones: “The (bilateral) agreements with the EU have been negotiated under the implicit assumption that Switzerland in the foreseeable future will be a member of the EU, which is why only little attention was paid to active participation and co-determination.”(Former Secretary of State Franz Blankart, Switzerland’s chief negotiator at the EEA, in NZZ am Sonntag 25.10.2009) It is therefore not a surprise, that today a framework agreement is imposed on Switzerland by the EU, under which in future Switzerland would have to simply accept the EU’s legislation – whereas the people’s participation is excluded.
The here presented brochure was published in Germany in 2014 and is based on a series of articles in Current Concerns from the year 2012. It highlights the founding years of the EEC, the foundation of the EFTA, and especially the political process leading up to the Free Trade Agreement of 1972, being adopted by the people with an overwhelming majority, never questioned until today. The brochure is based on original documents electronically accessible from the collection “Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland”. This has been created in collaboration with the Federal Archives, which provided the internal documents from the years before 1970: Protocols of the Federal Council meetings, reports and letters from the embassies abroad or memos from the employees of the Federal Council having attended the meetings with representatives of foreign governments. Furthermore, with regard to the issue of European integration, a number of papers are to be mentioned from the so-called ambassador conferences, with which information about the political situation and the talks with the then EEC was usually provided to the foreign representatives by a Federal Councillor or a Minister. When reading such internal documents, the reader gains an accurate picture of what happened – as it is not possible in the current world of politics. This includes treasures such as an interview transcript of Federal President Wahlen with General de Gaulle, who talked about European integration in Paris in 1961, which today can be downloaded in its original wording. (www.dodis.ch/30270)

Causing the European orchestra to resound again

On 5 September 1969 – in the run-up of Switzerland’s free trade agreement with the EC – Minister Weitnauer, Delegate for Trade Agreements, assembled the ambassadors on the theme “Possibilities and Limits of Economic Integration”. In a broad-based, national political lecture he raised the question, what conditions were to be met in order to form a common state in Europe. He came to the conclusion that most of these conditions were not given. Politics and the economy would have to be separated in order to cause the European orchestra to sound (what actually happened in the Free Trade Agreement of 1972). His remarks can be read here: www.dodis.ch/30861.

Jean Monnet/USA concept

The European policy of the United States is as well becoming clear when one reads the brochure, being called “Jean Monnet/USA concept” by Minister Weitenauer. The United States clearly argued against free cooperation of sovereign European states in the economic field, as it was supported by the Swiss Federal Council and the then German Minister for economic affairs Ludwig Erhard – and called for the formation of a supranational, political union. Even more: The United States urged the Europeans to dissolve the EFTA as a liberal union, and advised Switzerland to commit itself to the EEC. After a visit by US Undersecretary of State George Ball, this was commented by Federal President Wahlen as follows: “The United States support the aim of the EEC and strive for the creation of the United States of Europe. Whoever shut themselves off from that goal, cannot count on Washington’s sympathy.” (www.dodis.ch/15113, 30116, 30279, 30358, 30835 and others)
The brochure examines the work of Jean Monnet, being considered as one of the “fathers” of the EU. In particular, the “Monnet method” is part of today’s politics. He himself describes it as follows: “L’homme n’accepte le changement que sous l’Empire de la nécessité.” (Eric Roussel, Jean Monnet, p. 68, Paris 1996 “Man accepts changes only under the pressure of necessity”) In simple terms this means: Political difficulties serve as a lever to promote the development towards a political union.
By these documents available today history becomes alive. Whoever reads them and compares the reflections of that time with the political situation of today, inevitably come to the conclusion that history is admittedly not repeating itself, but that there are definite constants. Detecting them and drawing the right conclusions from them, eases the way into the future. •

Werner Wüthrich. “Das Europäische Orchester wieder zum Klingen bringen” (Causing the European orchestra to resound. The history of the European Union from a Swiss perspective), Bergen 2014. The brochure is available in “Büecher-Chorb Aadorf” (004152 366 22 60; info(at)buecher-chorb.ch)