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A Swiss Way For The U.K.?


Now for some news from Europe, and we need to specify - not from the European Union. We're heading to Switzerland, which has never been a member of the EU. It follows some EU rules, but not others and gets some EU perks, but not others. In essence, the country is continually negotiating its own deals with Brussels.

After the United Kingdom's recent decision to leave the EU, some wonder if it can follow the Swiss example. Former Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey has been thinking about this and writing about this, so we thought it would be interesting to speak with her. We reached her in the Swiss Alps. Madam President, thank you so much for speaking with us.


MARTIN: Briefly, could you tell us why Switzerland decided not to join the EU?

CALMY-REY: Switzerland doesn't want to join the EU. Switzerland never wanted political integration. We want to keep our institution. We want to keep our direct democracy, but we have an interest in economy, having economic relations with the European Union.

MARTIN: Why do you think the EU agreed to create this unique relationship with Switzerland? What was Switzerland's leverage?

CALMY-REY: We are in the middle of the European continent, and I think we are an important economic partner for the European Union. We are, perhaps, small in territory, but not - economically, we're not small.

MARTIN: Some people call Switzerland's relationship with the EU - they call it the Swiss model, and they suggest that the U.K. could then follow the Swiss model in negotiating agreements. Does that sound right to you?

CALMY-REY: I wouldn't speak about the Swiss model, but I would call it the Swiss way. The Swiss way is the way of the agreement. Great Britain has to decide how to train its future relations with the European Union. And in that way, I think the Swiss way of negotiating could be a good way for Great Britain.

MARTIN: As you certainly know, there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth about this. Many people are very worried, and, you know, the stock markets have been very much roiled by all this. What's your sense of things?

CALMY-REY: You can see now newspapers predicting the worst situation of the world and things like that. I think it's delusions. I think some people say in the European Union we'll have to be hard to Great Britain to avoid this Brexit decision for other member states of the European Union.

But I think this position is not realistic because the economic and commercial interests are so big that it will push on a decision. And, second, as a Brexit decision also force the European Union to reconsider their relations between its many states. And, perhaps, to clarify, the two visions existing inside the European Union - one vision that will have more integration, more common policies, more solidarity with the migrants and then (unintelligible), it would, OK, let's consider our national interest, our economic interest, commercial interest, and no political integration.

Perhaps this decision of the Brexit is a chance for the European Union to clarify these two visions and to avoid to explode. So I don't like panic. Europe is able to find pragmatic solutions to all this.

MARTIN: That was former Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey joining us from the Swiss Alps. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.