Before 2014, the bilateral approach, as it is known in Switzerland, was consistently supported by the Swiss people in referendums. It allows the Swiss to retain a sense of sovereignty, on the basis of agreements, when changes to EU legislation only apply when a joint bilateral Commission decides to do so by consensus. It also limits the EU`s influence to the ten areas in which the EEA covers more territories, with more exceptions than the EEA. The history of Switzerland`s bilateral engagement with the European Community consists of four main parts. This is called the „guillotine clause”. While the bilateral approach theoretically protects the right to refuse the application of new EU rules to Switzerland, the clause limits the room for manoeuvre in practice. The Agreement on the European Economic Area contains a similar clause. In 1994, Switzerland and the EU began negotiating special relations outside the EEA. Switzerland wanted to ensure the economic integration with the EU that the EEA Treaty would have allowed, while cleaning up relations with the contentious points that led the people to refuse the referendum. Swiss politicians stressed the bilateral nature of these negotiations, which took place between two equal partners and not between 16, 26, 28 or 29, as is the case for the negotiations on the Treaty on European Union. Switzerland`s economic and trade relations with the EU are mainly governed by a series of bilateral agreements in which Switzerland has agreed to adopt certain aspects of EU legislation in exchange for access to part of the EU`s internal market.

Engagement in bilateral agreements with the European Union enables Switzerland to cooperate closely with the EU by solving concrete issues and problems step by step. Through the use of specific contractual agreements, the EU and Switzerland have access to market access and work together on key issues. Unlike full EU integration, the bilateral approach does not require Switzerland to accept EU laws that go beyond its own. Bilateral agreements I are interdependent. If one of them is denounced or not renewed, they all stop applying. In line with the preamble to the EU`s decision to ratify the agreements: following the refusal of EEA membership in 1992, Switzerland and the EU agreed on a set of seven sectoral agreements signed in 1999 (known in Switzerland as „bilateral I”). These include the free movement of persons, technical barriers to trade, public procurement, agriculture and air and land transport. In addition, a scientific research agreement has enabled Switzerland to be fully used in the EU`s research framework programmes.

Switzerland is not a Member State of the European Union (EU). It is linked to the Union by a series of bilateral treaties in which Switzerland has adopted various provisions of EU law in order to participate in the Union`s internal market without acceding as a Member State. With the exception of one (the micro-state of Liechtenstein) from Switzerland`s neighbouring countries, all EU Member States. In terms of foreign and security policy, Switzerland and the EU have no cross-cutting agreements. However, in its 2000 security report, the Federal Council announced the importance of contributing to stability and peace beyond Switzerland`s borders and of building an international community of values. Subsequently, Switzerland began to collaborate on projects under the EU`s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). .