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Switzerland

Swiss approach EU to resolve differences on future relationship

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Commission Vice President for Inter-institutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič met with a delegation from the Swiss Parliament this afternoon (8 September). He welcomed what would be the first meeting since the “very abrupt” end to negotiations on a EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement in May. 

The Swiss Federal Council terminated negotiations on the agreement after 25 summits between the Swiss and EU sides. Šefčovič welcomed the chance to listen to Swiss proposals on the outstanding issues and set the course for the future, pointing to the fact that the two were already diverging: “We are not going to stay at the current status quo. Our relationship [with Switzerland], over time, would simply erode because the EU is moving forward with new legislative proposals and the new financial perspective, with new programmes.”

Šefčovič has been asked by the Commission president to lead the discussions with the Swiss today and it may become a more permanent part of the vice president's, already diverse, portfolio: “Switzerland is fully integrated in our Single Market, I think it's a mutually very beneficial relationship. I think we have to overcome the differences and set the path for the future. If I am entrusted with this task, I will do my best.”

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Photo: Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Inter-institutional relations and Foresight receives Eric Nussbaumer, President of the Swiss EFTA/EU delegation and Member of the Swiss Parliament (National Council). © European Union, 2021

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Russia

Yves Bouvier fully cleared of all charges in his dispute against Russia Oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev

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The Geneva prosecutor’s office has dropped the last legal case initiated by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier (pictured). In his final ruling order, the Prosecutor confirms that, contrary to what Rybolovlev's lawyers have claimed, there was no fraud, no mismanagement, no breach of trust and no money laundering. Since January 2015, Rybolovlev and his lawyers have lost all of the nine court cases filed against Bouvier over the intervening years, including in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Monaco and Geneva.

"Today marks the end of a six-year nightmare,” said Bouvier. “For reasons that had nothing to do with my art dealing activities, an oligarch tried and failed to destroy me, mobilizing his extraordinary financial resources and influence. He tried to asphyxiate me financially by launching bogus lawsuits all over the world. Spending millions he commissioned large communications firms to destroy my reputation and private intelligence agents to track me everywhere. Over the course of his attack, every legal firm I worked with and myself were targeted by coordinated and sophisticated e-mail hacks. He tried to destroy my business, my reputation and my life. But he failed. All courts have confirmed my innocence. Truth prevailed, as I said from the very first day of his attacks. This is a complete victory.”

"Rybolovlev's attacks against me had nothing to do with the sale of art,” Bouvier also explained. “Firstly, he was half-way through the most expensive divorce in history and wanted to depreciate the value of his art collection. Secondly, he wanted to punish me for having refused to corrupt Swiss judges for his very expensive divorce. Thirdly, he wanted to steal my freeport business in Singapore and build his own for the Russian Federation in Vladivostok."

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Bouvier, who had to stop almost all his art dealings, logistics and transportation activities to defend himself against the massive attacks during these last six years, suffers immense damages. The tables have now turned: Rybolovlev (and his lawyer Tetiana Bersheda) find themselves under three criminal investigations in Monaco, Switzerland and France, and is suspected of having instrumentalised and corrupted public officials in the process of his attacks against Bouvier. Ten people, including several former Ministers, are being investigated as part of what is known as 'Monacogate', the largest corruption scandal in Monaco’s history.

David Bitton, a lawyer for Bouvier in Geneva, commented that: “Today marks the end of the scandalous vendetta initiated by Rybolovlev in 2015, and a complete and absolute victory for our client.”

Bouvier was represented in his cases by: David Bitton and Yves Klein (Monfrini Bitton Klein); Alexandre Camoletti (Amuruso & Camoletti); Frank Michel (MC Etude d’Avocats); Charles Lecuyer (Ballerio & Lecuyer); Luc Brossolet (AAB Avocats); Ron Soffer (Soffer Avocats); PRESS RELEASE Francois Baroin and Francis Spziner (Stas & Associés); Edwin Tong, Kristy Tan Ruan, Peh Aik Hin (Allen & Glendhill); Pierre-Alain Guillaume (Walder Wyss), Daniel Levy (McKool Smith), Mark Bedford (Zhong Lun).

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Russia

Kremlin insider arrested in Switzerland following US request

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Russian businessman Vladislav Klyushin was arrested during a stay in Valais last March at the request of the American authorities. Klyushin is a close associate of Alexeï Gromov, a senior official in the Russian presidential administration. Gromov is widely considered to be "the person in charge of the Kremlin's control of the Russian media" and was placed under American sanctions two months ago. Klyushin is said to be the creator of a powerful media monitoring system used by Russian services. Currently detained in Sion, he opposes his extradition to the United States. The information emerges from a judgment of the Federal Tribunal (TF) made public just days before the meeting of Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin which is scheduled for 16 June in Geneva.

It only took 24 hours for the US authorities to obtain the arrest of Vladislav Klyushin on 21 March 21, while he was in Valais. This is revealed by a judgment of the Federal Supreme Court released on June 3.

The facts with which he is accused in the United States have not been disclosed. According to the Swiss TF ruling Vladislav Klyushin is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Massachusetts District Court on 19 March, 2021, but no indictment has yet been made public on the US side .

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Vladislav Klyushin's name appeared in 2018 as part of a Proekt media investigation into how the Kremlin managed to infiltrate and then turn anonymous Telegram messaging channels into a propaganda weapon. It included Nezygar, one of the most prominent anonymous channels in the country.

According to journalists, this infiltration operation was supervised by Alexei Gromov, deputy director of the presidential administration of Vladimir Putin, with the help of Vladislav Klyushin.

The latter would have created the Katyusha media monitoring system, sold to the Russian authorities by his company OOO M13.

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Also according to the Russian media, Alexeï Gromov regularly encouraged the Russian services and ministries to use the Katuysha system, whose name is inspired by the famous Soviet rocket launchers which were notorious for their powerful but imprecise shots.

Last January, the Kremlin signed a 3.6 million SF contract with M13 for the use of its surveillance software for “analysing messages on electoral processes, political parties and the non-systemic opposition” .

Former press secretary to President Vladimir Putin, Alexeï Gromov is described as “a discreet man (…) but who is nonetheless a key manager of the control exercised by the Putin government over what is said - or not - in the main Russian print and audiovisual media. ”

Already under European sanctions since 2014 in connection with the invasion of Crimea, Gromov was the first target of a new round of sanctions pronounced on 15 April by the US Department of the Treasury.

Alexei Gromov is accused of having "directed the use by the Kremlin of its media apparatus" and of having "sought to exacerbate tensions in the United States by discrediting the American electoral process in 2020".

On the day the sanctions were announced, US President Joe Biden called for a de-escalation of tensions with Russia. “The United States is not seeking to start a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia. We want a stable and predictable relationship,” he said. Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Geneva on June 16.

Held in pre-trial detention since his arrest on 21 March, Vladislav Klyushin told Swiss authorities he opposed his extradition to the United States.

Represented by lawyers Oliver Ciric, Dragan Zeljic and Darya Gasskov, he filed a first appeal before the Federal Criminal Court (TPF), on 6 April, to request the lifting of his pre-trial detention.

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Switzerland

Switzerland halts negotiations with the EU

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Switzerland’s Federal Council today (26 May) announced that it was bringing to an end its discussions with the EU on a new EU-Swiss Institutional Agreement. The main difficulties have been over state aid, free movement and the related issue of the wages of posted workers. 

Switzerland has reached the conclusion that the differences between Switzerland and the EU are too great and that the conditions necessary for its conclusion have not been met.

In a statement the European Commission said that it had taken note of this unilateral decision of the Swiss Government and that it regretted this decision given progress made over the last years. 

The EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement was intended as a way to overhaul the 120 bilateral agreements that had become unmanageable and out of date and to replace it with a single framework aimed at a more workable, and modern arrangement for future EU-Swiss bilateral relations.

The EU stated: “Its core purpose was to ensure that anyone operating in the EU Single Market, to which Switzerland has significant access, faces the same conditions. That is fundamentally a matter of fairness and legal certainty. Privileged access to the Single Market must mean abiding by the same rules and obligations.”

The Swiss side has said that in order to limit the negative consequences of the end of the negotiations, the Federal Council has already started to plan and implement various mitigation measures.

In an accompanying factsheet the EU outlines areas that may be effected by today's decision of Switzerland not to agree to a new framework, including areas such as health, medical devices, agriculture, electricity and labour markets.

Consequences

Switzerland would have to leave EU electricity trading platforms and cooperative platforms for grid operators or regulators, and would gradually lose its privileged connection with the EU electricity system.

A public health agreement cannot be contemplated without the conclusion of the Institutional Framework Agreement). Without it, Switzerland cannot participate in: - The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which provides scientific support, experts, analysis of variants, and assessment of the situation in the EU/EEA; Joint Procurements for purchase of protective equipment, treatments, diagnostics; An e-health network that gives, for example, technical specifications for the interoperability of COVID-19 tracing apps (no participation possible in the technical work); The EU4Health Programme that will finance many of the preparedness and response activities to COVID-19; The future European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will enable rapid availability, access and distribution of countermeasures.

Without the extension of the scope of the Trade in Agricultural Products Agreement to the whole food chain, issues such as food labelling will remain not harmonised, which discourages Small and Medium Enterprises from exporting from Switzerland into EU Member States and reciprocally. Not upgrading the agreement towards further liberalisation will deprive Switzerland of the opportunity to negotiate better market access for some agricultural products, notably meat and dairy, where access is today limited.

Some figures on EU-Swiss relations

More than 1.4 million EU citizens reside in Switzerland and around 400,000 Swiss nationals in the EU. This represents 4.6% of Swiss citizens, compared to 0.3% of EU citizens. 19% of the working age population in Switzerland have EU citizenship. In addition there are around 350,000 cross-border commuters who work in Switzerland. Switzerland has become more and more dependent on posted service workers from neighbouring countries, a remarkable 37.4% of doctors working in Switzerland come from abroad, with the majority coming from nearby EU countries. The figures for other sectors, show a remarkably heavy dependence on non-Swiss workers: gastronomy (45%) construction (35%), manufacturing industries (30%) and information and communication (30%).

The EU is Switzerland’s most important trading partner accounting for almost 50% or about €126 billion of its imports of goods and about 42% or some €114 billion of its exports of goods. • Switzerland is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner after China, the U.S. and the UK. The Swiss market represents about 7% of EU exports and 6% of its imports.

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