For Corona, the EU is central to Switzerland, not China

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Sandro Brotz: Every third caregiver in Switzerland comes from nearby countries

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            <span id="articleAuthor">Jurg Muller-Muralt</span> / 12. Jul 2020  - 
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        <strong>Without EU cooperation, it could have been uncomfortable in Switzerland during the Corona crisis.  Renationalization is a mistake.</strong>
    </p><div><p class="paragraph">The national reflex at the beginning of the corona pandemic was impressive.  In March 2020, almost all surrounding countries blocked various supplies of protective material destined for Switzerland.  The French government ordered the seizure of all protective masks in early March.  Almost at the same time, Germany also ordered an export ban for medical protective equipment, i.e. safety glasses, protective masks, protective coats, protective suits and gloves.  It was uncomfortable for Switzerland.  Norbert Riedel, the German ambassador in Bern, recently admitted in an interview with the <em>Commercial newspaper</em> one, in the beginning “all states would have put their own protection first, including Germany”.</p><p class="section2"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">SVP calls on China for help</strong></p><p class="paragraph">So all states followed reflexively the motto of SVP National Councilor Roger Koppel: "In an emergency - also in the Corona emergency - the limited nation state proves to be the only reliable framework for solving the problems where they arise."  (SVP homepage 08.05.2020) Already on 15.03.2020 the People's Party said in a media release: "To ensure medical care, the federal government must provide companies with Swiss production of urgently needed products such as rapid tests, respirators, intensive care units, medical protective clothing and other critical Commit goods to intensify their production immediately and to supply Switzerland as a priority. »  But it was not possible without the foreign country, the SVP also recognized this.  In the same media release, she called for “the Federal Council to take advantage of Switzerland's existing good relations with China in both diplomatic and charitable fields.  The aim is to get additional respiratory equipment and other medical goods from China that are no longer needed there. »</p><p class="section3"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">EU Commission stops going it alone</strong></p><p class="paragraph">The European Union, the intimate enemy of the SVP, could not be asked to cooperate well.  But it was the EU Commission of all things that called for its member states to act in mid-March and put an end to national solo efforts.  Deliveries within the EU had to be released immediately.  A little later, and after the Federal Council intervened, the EU's power word on equal treatment also applied to Switzerland.  Germany and France did not initially adhere to this.  It took a few more calls from Switzerland and even a legal threat from the European Court of Justice - and then the free movement of goods for medical goods worked again.</p><p class="section4"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">"Not always enough attention"</strong></p><p class="paragraph">This is not an isolated case.  Switzerland was integrated into the EU's coordination mechanism very early on - even though Switzerland is not a member of the EU and Brussels would not have been obliged to cooperate closely.  The Federal Council and the Swiss EU Ambassador «attended all relevant EU meetings when it came to health, security and borders.  That doesn't always get enough attention here.  I received a lot of praise from the Federal Councilors for this constructive cooperation.  The Covid 19 crisis showed Switzerland how much it relies on the EU, and vice versa: Brussels understood that Switzerland - in the middle of Europe - had to be involved in EU decisions, »says Ambassador Norbert Riedel in <em>Commercial newspaper</em>-Interview.</p><p class="section5"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">Switzerland fully activated</strong></p><p class="paragraph">A compilation of the “La Suisse en Europe” association also shows how closely Switzerland and the European Union have worked together in the Corona crisis.  The study was written by Thomas Cottier, emeritus professor of European and international economic law and president of the association mentioned, and Fabian Schmid, secretary of this association and head of the office of the Swiss Society for Foreign Policy (SGA).  According to the authors, the responsible federal councilors and their chief officials were involved in informal video conferences of the health and home affairs ministries of the EU states.  Switzerland also had access to the Health Security Committee, which coordinates national measures to combat the corona virus.  Switzerland was also involved in the area of ​​research and innovation.</p><p class="section6"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">Access to the EU early warning system</strong></p><p class="paragraph">At Bern's request, Switzerland also had temporary access to the EWRS (Early Warning and Response System).  It is a network-based platform through which the EU and the health authorities of the Member States exchange health data and coordinate measures.  Switzerland does not have permanent access to this important hub because a health agreement is blocked due to the still lacking framework agreement.  As long as there is no such agreement and Switzerland is not automatically involved, the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) will have to knock on the EU again as a petitioner in the next health crisis.</p><p class="section7"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">EU compliance with medical devices</strong></p><p class="paragraph">The EU has also accommodated Switzerland in the revised medical device regulation.  It should originally have applied from May 26, 2020.  The EU has now postponed the full applicability of this regulation by one year.  «Thanks to the bilateral agreement on technical barriers to trade, Swiss manufacturers enjoy previously unbureaucratic access to the EU internal market, which saves effort, costs and time.  In order not to lose this access after the revised regulation is introduced, Switzerland and the EU must agree on an update of the agreement.  The EU recently made this update dependent on a response from the Federal Council to the framework agreement by May 26.  Now the EU has given up this weighty leverage with a view to swiftly signing the framework agreement.  For the Swiss medtech industry, the decision means that they will not lose access to the European single market for the time being.  In addition, medical protective materials can be traded between Switzerland and the EU for another year without a permit, »write Cottier and Schmid.</p><p class="paragraph">The EU and Switzerland have also worked closely together on repatriation flights by stranded tourists abroad.  Experts exchanged views on an EU information platform.  "A representative of Switzerland also communicated planned Swiss return campaigns and, conversely, was offered seats on flights from EU countries."</p><p class="section9"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">Hospitals cannot function without the free movement of people</strong></p><p class="paragraph">The admission of corona patients to Swiss hospitals, especially from the severely affected Alsace, was also uncomplicated.  «The fact that Switzerland has accepted French patients is not only an act of European solidarity, but also in its own interest: Swiss hospitals rely on numerous cross-border commuters from France and other countries.  Almost two-thirds of the nurses at the Geneva University Hospital come from France near the border, over 2,000 nursing staff from Italy work in Ticino hospitals who cross the border every day, and in Basel a fifth of the staff at the University Hospital are cross-border commuters.  The Swiss health system would become inoperable in the border regions without their contribution.  It is based entirely on the free movement of people, »Cottier and Schmid state.</p><p class="section10"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">It would have been uncomfortable with a stubborn EU</strong></p><p class="paragraph">The corona crisis has confirmed a truism: Switzerland and the EU are closely networked at different areas and levels.  The crisis also underlined the fundamental importance of the free movement agreement, for Switzerland and its neighbors.  In the healthcare sector alone, skilled workers cannot simply be replaced by local unemployed people.  And the border regions in particular have once again been shown how closely they are connected to EU countries.  Switzerland's annual trade volume with China is only exceeded by that with the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.  When it comes to dealing with the ongoing corona crisis, Switzerland is not central to Switzerland, but the EU.  If the European Union had been stubborn, it could have been uncomfortable in Switzerland. </p><p class="section11"><strong style="font-weight:bold;">You cannot build on goodwill alone</strong></p><p class="paragraph">Thomas Cottier and Fabian Schmid put it this way: «The political mood of foreclosure and renationalization is in contrast to the experiences on the terrain during the crisis.  Cooperation was carried out in many areas;  moreover, the cooperation was necessary and useful in dealing with specific problems and challenges. »  The EU has been very helpful to Switzerland during the most violent phase of the corona crisis.  But without concluding the long-standing institutional framework agreement, Switzerland cannot count on the goodwill of Brussels at all times.</p></div><div id="sendArticle" style="display:none;">
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