The Bilateral Agreements between Switzerland and the EU, in force since 1 June 2002, consist of seven specific agreements, including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). Initially concluded with the 15 EU Member States, the AFMP was later extended to the 10 States that joined the EU in 2004. In an agreement signed on 26 October 2004, both parties defined specific transitional provisions for new EU Member States. This regulatory scheme was designed to ensure mutual, gradual and controlled opening of the EU and Swiss labour markets. Restrictions on accessing the Swiss labour market may be upheld until 30 April 2011. Subsequently, a protection clause makes it possible to re-impose, for a period limited to three years, restrictions on the number of residence permits issued, in case of an unexpected influx into Switzerland of nationals from EU Member States.
In response to concerns voiced by many circles about the risks of social and wage dumping in Switzerland, the Swiss Parliament reinforced the flanking measures spelled out in the additional protocol to the agreement. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, Switzerland and the EU resumed negotiations to deal with the potential consequences of the enlargement. They ended on 27 May 2008 with the signing of the FMP Protocol II. This agreement includes transitional provisions for a period of seven years, from 1 June 2009 onwards. An additional threeyear protection clause after the seven-year transitional period was also approved by the European partners. Like the FMP Protocol I, the FMP Protocol II was submitted to an optional referendum.
Due to its proximity to France and the important role played by crossborder workers in the regional economy, the Canton of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) was particularly concerned by the implementation of the bilateral agreements, in particular, by the AFMP. Before the bilateral agreements entered into force, prior control of working conditions was performed by social partners (trade unions, employers’ associations) and the State. Thereafter, this was no longer possible. Such controls are indeed deemed discriminatory by the EU and cannot be carried out by one State to the detriment of others. To minimise the negative impact on the regional labour market, the Department of Economy of the Canton of Neuchâtel introduced various mechanisms aimed at monitoring the labour market in its territory. One was to set up a tripartite commission formed by representatives of employers’ associations, trade unions and the State. Thanks to this new body, the cantonal authorities were able to follow developments and intervene in the most blatant cases of wage dumping.
The free movement of persons also requires states to collaborate, in particular in the definition of entitlements to social protection, such as unemployment benefits. To this end, the Unemployment Benefit Payment Office of the Canton of Neuchâtel set up an in-house competence centre to deal with questions related to the EU. The government realised the importance of having a ‘ground-based’ observatory and provided financial support to the competence centre.
|Award category:||opening up the public sector|
|Sector:||Public health and social welfare/affairs|
|Type of activity:|
|Short English description:||To this end, the Unemployment Benefit Payment Office of the Canton of Neuchâtel set up an in-house competence centre to deal with questions related to the EU.|
|Organisation:||Caisse cantonale neuchâteloise d’assurance-chômage – Unemployment Benefit Payment Office of the Canton of Neuchâtel|
|Level of government:||regional level|
|Size of organisation:||25-50|
|Number of people involved:||6-10|
|EU membership:||other European country|