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Switzerland ends bid to join European Economic Area - after 24 years

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Switzerland ends bid to join European Economic Area - after 24 years

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A week ahead of the UK referendum on EU membership, Switzerland has done some clarification of its own on its relationship with Europe.

Never an EU member state, Switzerland has nonetheless officially withdrawn its long dormant application to join the European Economic Area (EEA), the precursor to the European Single Market.

Membership of the EEA is open to European Union members but also members of the European Free Trade Association. Norway and Iceland are both signatories because of their membership of the latter group.

The Swiss upper house of parliament voted on Wednesday to cancel the process that started in 1992.

It follows an earlier decision of the lower house.

EEA members must follow the rules of the European Single Market, with exclusions in some areas and in return share privileged access to each others’ markets.

The next step, the Swiss foreign minister told local media, will be to officially inform Brussels that the application is dead.

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