The National Council of Switzerland criticised the plans to sign a free trade agreement with the Belarusian dictator.
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that, besides Switzerland, includes Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, conducted negotiations on a free trade agreement with Russia, but the situation developed in another direction. In 2009, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan formed the Customs Union. As a result, further negotiations should be held with the three countries, Tagesanzeiger (Switzerland) writes.
Switzerland faced a difficult dilemma: the country imposed sanctions on the Belarusian authorities in 2006 restricting the entry to the country for a number of officials, freezing their accounts and banning the export of certain goods. Other EACT members met the same problems, but decided to continue negotiations. Switzerland had the same position, according to the country's representative to the WTO Luzius Wasescha. “Taking into account the fact that negotiations with Belarus were politically explosive, a compromise was found – Minsk doesn't host any negotiations and Belarus's representatives cannot organise such talks.” According to Wasescha, “it was a very unusual situation, but we have no other choice. The free trade agreement with Russia was too important economically to suspend the negotiations due to the Customs Union with Belarus.”
Members of the Council's Foreign Affairs Committee criticised the negotiations noting that the federal administration was not informed and didn't know about the dilemma. As Committee's member Christa Markwalder noted, the matter was systematic problems of Belarus. She said: “The sanctions are an economic tool that is used to improve the human rights situation in the country.” On the contrary, the free trade agreement will facilitate trade relations. “Sanctions and free trade are a contradiction.”
Member of the National Council Martin Naef has the same opinion, says Blumer, the author of the article. The politician notes he doesn't understand “how it is possible to sign the agreement with Russia, put Belarus into the side car and not to notice it.”