The EU has long criticised the fact that the current network of bilateral agreements does not guarantee homogeneity in the application and development of the law and that there is no institutional framework as a whole. The fact that most agreements do not contain an explicit obligation for Switzerland to regularly adapt market access agreements to relevant developments in EU legislation is a central criticism. Therefore, the EU makes new market access agreements subject to the conclusion of a framework agreement that settles institutional issues in a uniform and orderly manner. In addition to the dynamic development of bilateral agreements, this agreement also provides for a dispute settlement mechanism and increases overall legal certainty and transparency in decision-making. In 2009, Switzerland became a participant in the Schengen area with the adoption of an Association Agreement by referendum in 2005.  This means that there is no passport control at Switzerland`s borders with its neighbours, although customs controls remain in force. Negotiations between Switzerland and the European Commission for an institutional framework agreement began in 2014 and ended in November 2018. On 7 December 2018, the Federal Council decided not to accept or reject the negotiated agreement, but opted for public questioning.  The negotiated agreement would cover five areas of existing agreements between the EU and Switzerland from 1999: Switzerland participated in the negotiations of the EEA Agreement with the EU, signed the agreement on 2 May 1992 and submitted an application for EU membership on 20 May 1992.
A Swiss referendum on 6 December 1992 refused accession to the EEA. Subsequently, the Swiss government suspended EU accession negotiations until further notice. By ratifying the second round of bilateral treaties, in 2006 the Federal Council downgraded the characterisation of Switzerland`s full membership of the EU from a “strategic objective” to an “option”. Membership remained the government`s goal and was a “long-term goal” of the Federal Council until 2016, when Switzerland`s frozen application was withdrawn.   The motion was adopted in June by the Council of States and then by the Federal Council.    By letter of 27 July, the Federal Council informed the Presidency of the Council of the EU that it was withdrawing its request.  On 22 December 2016, Switzerland and the EU concluded an agreement under which a new Swiss law (in response to the referendum) would oblige Swiss employers to take in all jobseekers (whether Swiss or non-Swiss nationals registered in Swiss employment agencies), while respecting the free movement of EU citizens in Switzerland so that they can work there.  It remains to be seen how the EU will position itself on the framework agreement next year, under the leadership of the new head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
The scope of the Framework Agreement is limited to the five existing bilateral market access agreements (free movement, removal of technical barriers to trade, land transport, air transport and agriculture) and all future market access agreements. Finally, it has been proposed that, if it is politically impossible to reach an agreement with the EU, the Swiss government should endeavour to reach an interim agreement before it actually fails in a referendum due to a refusal by the Federal Council, Parliament or the people. This proposal is made by Michael Ambühl, Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Management at the Technical University of Zurich, and his assistant Daniela Scherer. . . .