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Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga briefs Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos on the recent referendum in Switzerland

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The head of the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, Simonetta Sommaruga, asked to provide a telephone briefing today of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, in his capacity as President of the Council of the EU, regarding the referendum held in Switzerland last Sunday and the resulting amendment to the Swiss Federal Constitution.

Noting that the new constitutional amendment does not bear on the Schengen Treaty, Ms. Sommaruga briefed Mr. Venizelos on the framework within which the Federal Council of Switzerland intends to move, pursuing the maintenance of the best possible level of relations between Switzerland and the EU. Mr. Venizelos thanked the Swiss Minister for the briefing, assuring her that he will convey her views to the Council. He noted to her, however, what was said at the General Affairs Council this past Tuesday – which focused on the fact that the notion of the single market is based on four indivisible freedoms, one of which is the freedom of the movement of persons – as well as that the EU cannot accept the splitting of fundamental freedoms upon which the single market is built.

Mr. Venizelos also pointed out that domestic constitutional changes do not constitute a legally critical instrument in the field of International Public Law that governs the Swiss Confederation’s relations with the EU, and that in no case can the EU accept differentiation within the member states between the old 27 members and the new member state Croatia with regard to the free movement of Union citizens.

On the bilateral level, Mr. Venizelos noted the Swiss Finance Minister’s recent visit to Athens, as well as Mr. Venizelos’ talks with the current President of the Swiss Confederation within the framework of the UN General Assembly this past September, in New York. He also made the reminder that there is always an open invitation to visit Athens for a discussion on the bilateral level; a discussion that would certainly impact how apprised the Council of the EU is of developments, in light of the Hellenic Presidency’s initial statement on the Swiss referendum and the statement Mr. Venizelos himself made on behalf of the General Affairs Council during the press conference that followed the Council’s meeting this past Tuesday in Brussels.

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