Well, one would guess it should be pretty easy to identify what is North and South, especially when it comes to EU member countries…not so for political scientists. In recent years, a debate has been ongoing in a series of studies of the EU integration literature whether the conflict dimensions in the EU Council of Ministers are rather determined by a North-South conflict dimension, the Left-Right orientation of EU governments or maybe even a cultural dimension?
At the end of March, Germany and Switzerland agreed in principle on a double taxation agreement. Although the details remain to be negotiated (or disclosed), it is clear that the agreement and similar ones to follow with other EU member countries will end the delicate distinction between tax fraud and tax evasion that Switzerland has used to block inquiries from other countries and that has made possible a business model with a suspected volume of 500 billion untaxed Euros. It will also endanger an important economic niche that Switzerland had secured in an economically integrating Europe. Even though the tax issue created an especially heated political debate, it represents only one symptom of deeper structural problems that Swiss EU policy has run into and that put into question the Swiss bilateral sonderweg in Europe.
Reading about the recent scandals in Germany and the United Kingdom where it was disclosed that British Ministers and German Regional Prime Ministers and their services could be bought (a meeting with the Prime Minister of North Rhine Westphalia Jürgen Rüttgers at about 6000 Euro, a conversation with the Prime Minister of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich at 8000 Euro…in comparison was the service of a British minister relatively cheaper at around 5500 Euro for a full day), I started to wonder why such scandals were not prevalent in the Swiss political system. Of course, it is possible that Swiss politicians are not that easily tempted by money.