Since Switzerland maintains very close relations with its European neighbours, pursuing an active European policy is paramount. Switzerland does so bilaterally with the EU, whereby specific terms of this cooperation are defined in bilateral sectoral agreements, in clearly outlined areas.
Since the Free Trade Agreement of 1972, the number of agreements between Switzerland and the EU has steadily increased, most notably with the two packages of agreements called the Bilateral Agreements I (1999) and II (2004). These agreements grant extensive reciprocal access to markets and form the basis for close cooperation in political areas such as research, security, asylum, the environment and culture.
This bilateral approach allows Switzerland to pursue an open and cooperative policy with its European neighbours, which also benefits the Swiss economy.