# 2 / 2022

Swiss – EU relations: it is now time to act

Common economic interests of Switzerland and the EU

The bilateral market integration agreements are of great economic importance to both the EU and Switzerland.

Agreement on the free movement of persons

Currently, more than 1.4 million EU citizens live and work in Switzerland. Each day, 340,000 come to Switzerland to work as cross-border commuters. They generate an annual average income of 27 billion Swiss francs and thus generate important tax revenues in the near border regions.The generally well-qualified European professionals contribute significantly to the competitiveness of the Swiss economy.

Agreement on overland transport

Thanks to the overland transport agreement, Switzerland is optimally integrated into the European transport network. This benefits the Swiss logistics sector the industrial location and also the EU: 900,000 European lorries pass through Switzerland every year without any major delays. There are also positive environmental aspects, as the agreement makes a significant financial contribution to the shift of transalpine freight transport from road to rail.

Agreement on air transport

The air transport agreement has led to a greater choice of flight connections, particularly to the EU, and to lower prices. This is of great importance for international companies in Switzerland. Zurich airport, as an international hub, has also benefited significantly from its participation in the European aviation area. For its part, the EU benefits greatly from the use of Swiss airspace, which is one of the busiest in Europe. Over the last 11 years, an average of 1.2 million aircraft movements per year were registered in Switzerland. Half of these were transit flights.

Technical barriers to trade

The MRA reduces the time and cost of commercialising products in the foreign market concerned and has allowed Swiss industrial companies to integrate successfully into regional value chains. Thus, they have become important suppliers to EU companies. Thanks to mutual market participation and harmonised industrial standards, Switzerland and the EU neighbouring regions have merged to become Europe’s leading industrial location. Companies on both sides benefit from this. It also strengthens product diversity in Switzerland (e.g. in the field of medicine). For EU manufacturers of products with small sales volumes in Switzerland, the non-updating of the MRA creates a new trade barrier, affecting about an eighth of all medical devices sold in Switzerland.

Research and innovation

The EU’s research programmes make an important contribution to the innovative capacity and ultimately the international competitiveness of Europe as a whole. With the ETH in Zurich and the EPFL in Lausanne, two of the world's top 20 universities could in principle participate in Horizon Europe Moreover, more than 40 percent of all researchers at Swiss universities and research institutions are EU citizens. Without close networking of its research institutions, Europe has no chance of maintaining its position globally vis-à-vis the dominant US and the increasingly strong Asian research institutions (China in particular). Business innovation in Europe is also suffering. In international comparison, Switzerland has a very high density of innovative companies.


A total of 41 unregulated power lines connect Switzerland with the EU’s electricity grid. Ten percent of the electricity transit in Europe is flowing through Switzerland. Neighbouring countries benefit greatly from this. Up to 30 percent of the electricity traded between Germany and France is routed through Switzerland. Such transit flows will continue to increase as a result of the energy transition in Europe and put additional strain on the transmission grid. In order to maintain sustainable stabilisation of the European electricity grid, the inclusion of Switzerland is in the interests of both sides. Switzerland’s hydropower plants could also play an important storage function in the European electricity grid and balance the fluctuations from renewable energy sources. A blackout in Switzerland would inevitably also affect the electricity grids of neighbouring regions and cause high costs.

Mutual interests prevail

A stable and close relationship between Switzerland and the EU is in the interest of both sides, not only for individual sectors and policy areas, but in general. Fragmentation of European economic research and supply networks weakens the competitiveness and resilience of the entire continent in the mid and long term. In addition to the harmful erosion of further parts of the market integration and cooperation agreements through their non-application by the EU, the missed opportunities due to the lack of new agreements should also be emphasised. These concern all key policy areas, such as climate and health policy, digitalisation and financial services.