Switzerland, new member of the Schengen zone, risks dropping out. The non-EU state’s president, Pascal Couchepin, has been in Brussels for talks on company taxes and free cross-border movement.
Switzerland has a referendum coming up in February, on whether to include the two newest EU members Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen passport-waiver pact the country has just put into effect with the bloc. The UDC anti-EU populist party in the governing coalition is pushing for a ‘no’. Brussels is warning Bern that a negative result in the poll would void the Schengen arrangements and undo others. President Couchepin sounded optimistic about setting his people straight: “We shall have to convince the Swiss people at the next popular votation in February that it is not something new, it is just the continuation of good relations with the European Union, and we shall have to explain to the people that Romania and Bulgaria are a chance for Switzerland, and not a risk.” The second main topic for discussion was the reform of tax breaks for foreign-based businesses. Brussels says tax benefits for thousands of companies distort competition and are unfair. The EU is Switzerland’s main economic partner and national leaders have pledged to do all they can to secure a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.