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Switzerland is located in the heart of Europe and is almost entirely surrounded by member states of the European Union (EU). In view of its geographic and cultural proximity, but also due to its political and economic importance, the EU with its member states is by far Switzerland's most important partner. An active European policy is therefore essential.
Switzerland is not a member state of the European Union; instead it conducts its relations with the EU on the basis of bilateral agreements. Specific questions and issues are regulated with the EU via a series of treaties in clearly defined areas. Swiss-EU relations have developed and deepened over the decades. Since the Free Trade Agreement of 1972, an ever denser network of agreements has been developed in several steps. After the rejection by Swiss voters of Swiss accession to the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992, Switzerland and the EU concluded, among other things, seven agreements in 1999 (Bilateral Agreements I). These were followed by the Bilateral Agreements II (nine agreements and one exchange of letters) in 2004. These agreements provide both parties with extensive market access and form the basis for close cooperation in such key policy areas as research, security, asylum, the environment and cultural affairs. This bilateral approach allows Switzerland to conduct a policy of openness and close collaboration with all its European neighbours. It has been submitted to the Swiss electorate and endorsed at regular intervals.
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