As part of its neutrality policy, Switzerland has sought to expand its scope for action in foreign trade and foreign policy since the early 1970s. In 1972 Federal Councilor Ernst Brugger (* 1914, † 1998) signed the free trade agreement with the EEC (entered into force in 1973), Federal Councilor Pierre Graber (* 1908, † 2003) signed the European Convention on Human Rights. Under him and his successors as Head of the Political Department (since 1979 Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, abbreviation EDA), P. Aubert (1978-87) and R. Felber (from 1988, resigned in 1993), according to dentistrymyth, Switzerland has participated in the CSCE process since 1972. Against the background of a worldwide disarmament discussion, an initiative to abolish the Swiss army failed in 1989. After the end of the Cold War and the global turnaround in 1989/91 as well as in view of the advancing European integration and the globalization processes in the economy, Switzerland got into an identity crisis; unconditional neutrality seemed to have lost its obvious justification, and under F. Cotti (1993–99; CVP) and J. Deiss (1999–2002) a reorientation of security policy seemed necessary.
As early as 1986, the people had rejected membership of the UN recommended by the Federal Council in 1984. In May 1992 Switzerland became a member of the IMF and the World Bank. In the same month the government signed the Treaty on the European Economic Area (EEA) and decided to apply for membership in the EC; on December 6, 1992, however, the people refused to join the EEA and the government withdrew the application. On June 12, 1994, Switzerland’s participation in UN peace missions was rejected by the population and the majority of the cantons. On December 12, 1997, Switzerland signed the framework document for the NATO Partnership for Peace. The Kosovo conflict (1999) as well as the approval of the seven bilateral agreements with the EU (1999; inter alia on Alpine transit, freedom of movement) in the referendum on May 21. 2000 brought the policy of neutrality back into the domestic political discussion, intensified after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 on New York and the Pentagon. Despite the clear rejection of an immediate start of accession negotiations with the EU by referendum on March 4, 2001, a second package of nine bilateral agreements was concluded after further negotiations (“Bilaterale II”; May 19, 2004, including on the taxation of savings income and cooperation in Customs, migration and asylum issues); The EU’s attempt to repeal the 1934 provisions on Swiss banking secrecy has long been controversial).
On March 3, 2002, the people and the cantons narrowly agreed to join the UN, and on September 10, 2002 it was carried out. In a referendum on June 5, 2005, a majority voted for Switzerland to join the Schengen Agreement. On November 27, 2008, the foreign ministers of the EU states officially approved the admission of Switzerland to the Schengen area (implementation at the land borders on December 12, 2008 and at the airports on March 29, 2009). Since Switzerland is still not a member of the Customs Union of the European Communities, only the identity checks at its border are no longer necessary, the movement of goods continues to be controlled. In the relationship between Switzerland and the EU, an agreement on the free movement of persons has been in force since June 1, 2002, which creates rules for nationals of the contracting parties that are basically comparable to EC law, but contains some transition periods and the possibility of allocating quotas. In a referendum on February 8, 2009, this agreement on the free movement of persons was extended and extended to the new EU member states Bulgaria and Romania. M. al-Gaddhafi temporarily arrested in Geneva, whereupon a serious diplomatic crisis broke out between Libya and Switzerland. In March 2009, Switzerland bowed to international pressure and relaxed its strict banking secrecy. The government promised to comply with OECD standards for assistance with tax proceedings and, under certain conditions, to provide administrative assistance in the event of tax evasion. Until now, administrative assistance has only been granted in the case of tax fraud. An agreement reached in 2009 with the American tax authorities on the disclosure of accounts of American customers at the major bank UBS was declared unlawful by the Federal Administrative Court in 2010. That is why the Federal Council decided in March 2010 to conclude the agreement again as a state treaty with the USA – a controversial project, which the parliamentary bodies only approved in the second attempt on June 16, 2010. A German-Swiss tax agreement was signed in September 2011, but it failed in the German Federal Council and could not come into force on January 1, 2013 as planned. The tax dispute also continued with the USA. In June 2013, for example, the National Council rejected a law known as “Lex USA”, which would have made it possible for Swiss banks to forward business and employee data to US authorities. The Federal Council thereupon granted individual banks permission to provide information to the USA on the basis of the criminal code. On August 29, 2013, a joint declaration to resolve the tax dispute was signed in Washington. Switzerland and the EU signed on May 27th
The renegotiations on the free movement agreement with the EU, which were commissioned by the Federal Council as a result of the popular initiative “Against Mass Immigration” in 2014, are still pending. Due to the corona pandemic, the vote on a new SVP initiative (»limitation initiative«) had to be postponed to September 27, 2020. On December 20, 2019, the Federal Assembly recommended their rejection.