Thirty-one becomes thirty-two
Long-time partner becomes family member
Switzerlands final steps towards full EEA membership on 1 April will mark the end of a fairly long accession process. Formal negotiations on membership between the Commission and Switzerland started in 2001, and over the years, practical working relations between the EEA and Switzerland have developed. For instance, Switzerland actively took part in several EEA projects.
Naturally, Switzerland has always been covered in EEA reports with a pan-European scope, like the 1995 Europe's Environment - The Dobris Assessment, and even more so in the latest pan-European report Europe's environment: the third assessment (2003). Last year, Switzerland was included in the latest five-year report from the EEA; The European environment - State and outlook 2005. A Swiss national expert worked in the Agency between 2002-2004. This involvement helped bring a specific Swiss expertise relevant to EEA working areas, and ensure pan-European coverage for EEA reporting activities
With full membership, Switzerland will take part in the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), receive a seat on the EEA management board and contribute directly to the Agency budget. Swiss nationals will also be able to apply for jobs in the Agency, and Swiss companies compete for EEA contracts. Besides the EEA membership agreement, the Council also adopted an agreement for the participation of Switzerland in the MEDIA Plus and Media Training programmes; an agreement between the EU and the Swiss Confederation in the field of Statistics and a protocol to the Agreement for the free movement of persons from the new Member States.
The EU and Switzerland have concluded many agreements in a large number of sectors, such as free trade and free movement of persons, public procurement, land and air transport, agriculture, research etc. These agreements have given Switzerland privileged access to the enlarged Internal Market and to various EU programmes and activities.