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Switzerland says talks on accords with EU have collapsed

GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss government said Wednesday that years-long negotiations with the European Union on a comprehensive package of bilateral accords have collapsed, after the two sides failed to reach agreement on key issues including the cross-border movement of jobseekers.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said the Alpine nation’s government informed EU chief Ursula von der Leyen about its decision to withdraw from the talks.

Cassis said Switzerland hoped to remain a close partner of the 27-nation bloc, with which it has more than 100 bilateral treaties.

The negotiations largely stumbled over EU demands for full access to the Swiss labor market for its citizens, including those seeking work. Switzerland had resisted such a move. Cassis said it could mark a “paradigm shift” which could result in non-Swiss citizens getting social security rights in the country.

The decision to suspend seven years of talks between Bern and Brussels could have wide-ranging impacts on relations between Switzerland and the world’s biggest single market, which surrounds it. It could also resonate with Britain as it works to settle on its own ties with the EU after Brexit.

The EU has warned that failure to reach an agreement could harm numerous existing agreements, including cooperation in the areas of trade, education and research.

The Associated Press