Swiss minister pessimistic on swift EU treaty

Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said the EU would weaken itself if it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research. (AFP/File)
Updated 01 September 2019

Swiss minister pessimistic on swift EU treaty

  • The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading

ZURICH: Switzerland is unlikely to strike a deal with the EU this year over a stalled partnership treaty, its economy minister said, extending an impasse that has hurt bilateral ties and disrupted cross-border share trading.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged Bern to wrap up the accord before his term ends on Oct. 31, when German politician Ursula von der Leyen is set to replace him.

The Swiss government has also said it would like to clinch a deal by then if three final points can be clarified.

Economy Minister Guy Parmelin, however, told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that he was pessimistic, given that representatives of Swiss labor, employers and cantons had been unable to find common ground Switzerland could use in the talks. “We want a good solution that can win majority support, and that is not the case at the moment,” said Parmelin, a member of the right-wing and euroskeptic Swiss People’s Party.

“I don’t think we can wrap up this year. Our agenda and that of the EU allow a conclusion only next year at the earliest,” he said, citing Swiss elections in October, the creation of a new European Commission team and a Swiss referendum due next year on abolishing free movement of EU citizens.

Brussels blocked EU-based investors from trading on Swiss exchanges from July 1 as the row escalated over the treaty under which non-member Switzerland would routinely adopt the EU single market rules. The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading.

In Bern, resistance to the treaty — negotiated over 4-1/2 years and Switzerland’s top foreign policy issue — encompasses the normally pro-Europe center-left to the anti-EU far right, which both see the pact infringing on Swiss sovereignty.

Failure to secure a treaty deal with its biggest trading partner means Switzerland gets no new access to the single market, its crucial export outlet. The partners have 120 bilateral economic accords that would stay in place but erode over time when they are not updated. Research cooperation could also stop.

“I think the EU would weaken itself if it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research,” Parmelin said. “We are then forced to seek alternatives, perhaps along with Britain, if the EU remains dogmatic.”

Parmelin played down a Swiss media report that he would urge post-Brexit Britain to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which groups together Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

He said some Swiss politicians liked the idea but the Swiss Cabinet had not discussed it.

“I have not heard that this is needed by Britain. If Britons want that, we will review it, but I believe it would be risky,” he said.

“Given its size, Britain would dominate the rest of EFTA.”


Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund to raise authorized capital five-fold up to $62.15 billion

Updated 12 November 2019

Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund to raise authorized capital five-fold up to $62.15 billion

  • Egypt’s parliament passed a law allotting 5 billion Egyptian pounds of start-up capital for the fund last year
  • Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi: Egypt could dramatically expand the size of its new sovereign wealth fund to ‘more than several trillion pounds’

CAIRO: Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund is expected to increase its authorized capital to up to a trillion Egyptian pounds ($62.15 billion) from 200 billion pounds within three years, depending on investors’ appetite, the fund’s executive director said.
Last year, Egypt’s parliament passed a law allotting 5 billion Egyptian pounds of start-up capital for the fund, called the Egypt Fund, with 1 billion pounds to be transferred immediately from the treasury.
The law also allows the president, who picks the board of directors, to transfer the ownership of any unused state assists to the fund or to any of the fund’s assists or companies.
“We expect to increase our licensed capital within three years to a trillion pounds or less ... it all depends on the investors’ response and investment appetite,” said Ayman Soliman, the fund’s chief executive.
“The sectors we will work in include industry, traditional and renewable energy, tourism and archaeology,” Soliman said.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said last month that Egypt could dramatically expand the size of its new sovereign wealth fund to “more than several trillion pounds,” and that it “aims to contribute to sustainable economic development through management of its funds and assets.”
The fund plans to buy a stake of about 30 percent in power plants built by Siemens, Soliman said, adding that six international investors have expressed interest.
“So far, six companies submitted offers to the Electricity Holding company to buy shares in the Siemens power plant,” Soliman said.
The plants, billed at the time as the world’s biggest, were built by Siemens in a €6 billion ($6.61 billion) deal signed in 2015. El-Sisi inaugurated them last year.
In May, Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said that the government is considering selling the power plants to private investors, but talks were still at an early stage.