In 1992, Switzerland held a referendum on membership of the European Economic Area, which allows members of the European Free Trade Association to participate in the EU Single Market. The Swiss voted against EEA membership and chose to continue to adopt a strictly bilateral approach in their relations with the EU. Membership of the EEA would have forced Switzerland to take back part of EU law. The Swiss federal government has recently undergone several major political reversals, but specific agreements with the EU on the free movement of workers and the sectors of tax evasion have been dealt with within the Swiss banking system. This was the result of the first Ue-Switzerland summit in May 2004, during which nine bilateral agreements were signed. Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, said the agreements had “brought Switzerland closer to Europe.” Joseph Deiss of the Federal Council said: “We may not be at the centre of Europe, but we are definitely at the heart of Europe.” He continued: “We are entering a new era of relations between our two entities.”  Bilateral agreements of I are expressed as interdependent. If one of them is pointed at or not renewed, they no longer apply to all of them. According to the preamble to the EU`s decision to ratify the agreements: the ongoing implementation of these agreements obliges Switzerland to adopt relevant EU legislation in the covered sectors. There are currently more than 100 bilateral agreements between the EU and Switzerland. Switzerland participated in the negotiations of the EEA agreement with the EU and signed it on 2 May 1992 and applied for EU membership on 20 May 1992.
In a Swiss referendum on 6 December 1992, membership of the EEA was rejected. Subsequently, the Swiss government suspended EU accession negotiations until further notice. By ratifying the second round of bilateral agreements, the Federal Council in 2006 lowered the characterisation of Switzerland`s full adherence to a “strategic objective” to an “option”. Membership continued to be the government`s objective and a “long-term goal” of the Federal Council until 2016, when Switzerland`s request, which had been frozen, was withdrawn.   The request was adopted in June by the Council of States and then by the Bundesrat.    In a letter dated 27 July, the Federal Council informed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union that it was withdrawing its request.  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 internal market. In 2004, a series of sectoral agreements (known as “bilateral II”) were signed, including Switzerland`s participation in Schengen and Dublin, as well as agreements on the taxation of savings, processed agricultural products, statistics, anti-fraud, participation in the EU media programme and the Environment Agency.
Prior to 2014, the bilateral approach, as it is called in Switzerland, was systematically supported by the Swiss population during referendums. It allows the Swiss to maintain a sense of sovereignty on the basis of regulations when changes in EU law apply only when a common bilateral commission decides it 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.