Switzerland will withdraw its membership application to the EU, filed 24 years ago.
The Nationalrat (National Council), the lower house of the Federal Assembly approved a motion submitted by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP, Schweizerische Volkspartei), the right-wing populist political party of Christoph Blocher.
The motion was approved by 126 in favour, 46 against and 18 abstentions (out of 200 deputies). The foreign minister Didier Burkhalter pointed out in vain that the application filed in the 1990s was already void and annulled by the rejection by Switzerland of joining the European Economic Area (EEA) on 6 December 1992.
The EU keeps a list with all the official candidates, Burkhalter said. Switzerland does not appear on that list. Switzerland is seen such as Russia or Norway, as an independent, sovereign neighboring state. “The motion is unnecessary,” said the foreign minister.
The motion will now go to the Senate, which previously has rejected such initiatives.
Exactly one year ago, in March 2015, Iceland dropped its bid to join the European Union in line with pledges previously made by its then-new eurosceptic government.
Iceland first applied for EU membership under a leftist government in 2009, when the country was badly shaken by an economic crisis that saw the Icelandic krona lose almost half its value, making eurozone membership an attractive prospect.
But the thorny issue of fishing quotas was seen as a key obstacle to joining the bloc, although it was never brought up in the accession talks.