Following Brexit, the ghost of Schwexit haunts Europe

Following Brexit, the ghost of Schwexit haunts Europe
News

28 September , 15:28
Politics
Photo: tagesschau.de
Another referendum is taking place in Switzerland. The citizens of the country vote, among other things, whether it is necessary to restrict migration from Europe. If the answer is yes, then cooperation between the European Union and the Alpine Confederation will be difficult for many years.

Yelena Ivanova

The right-wing conservative Swiss People's Party called its demand to ban migration to Switzerland a "restrictive initiative". The SNP advocates that as few foreigners as possible move to the country. This also applies to labor migrants from the EU countries. Europe's opponents have launched a full-fledged advertising campaign in the media and on the Internet. “More and more people want to go to Switzerland, but we all have no room,” the girl complains in a YouTube video ad. The posters even more clearly express the position of the right-wing conservatives - one of them has a fat ass, dressed in blue, EU-flag pants, belted with a belt with gold stars, sitting on a small fragile Switzerland. Party members express themselves more culturally in their interviews. Roger Keppel, publisher of Weltwoche magazine, says: "For Switzerland, such a strong influx of migrants will not do anything good".

Other agreements with the European Union threatened

Switzerland has a population of 8.5 million, of which 1.5 million are citizens of European countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. There are too many strangers in the country for populists. Opponents of the initiative call it a "divorce". The SNP's arguments strongly resemble the slogans of the Brexit supporters in the UK - "Take back control!" Foreigners are accused of plundering Switzerland's social budget.

Some observers describe today's referendum as an attempt by Schwexit, similar to Brexit. The point is that this agreement cannot be terminated separately. The “Agreement on the Free Movement of Citizens” is part of a package that Switzerland signed with the European Union in 1999. If one agreement is terminated, according to the rule of the guillotine, 6 others will automatically lose force. Under threat are agreements on the movement of goods by land and air, on standards in medicine and science, as well as on public procurement, writes FT.

Bern and Brussels are currently working on a “framework agreement” that will include 210 existing agreements between the EU and Switzerland. The Europeans want to conclude a treaty as soon as possible. The Swiss say they cannot move forward until there are no results of the migration referendum.

“Yes” during the referendum will mean “no” to the framework agreement, ”said the leader of the SNP parliamentary faction Thomas Ashley. The MP does not want to draw parallels with Brexit, but his arguments are similar. “Immigration has grown significantly faster than forecasted. We are a small country. The outsiders use our infrastructure: while the Swiss are being pushed out of the labor market!"

1 million instead of 10 thousand

When Switzerland signed an agreement with the EU, the inflow of migrants was estimated at 8-10 thousand people per year. In thirteen years, 1 million people have arrived in the country. The EU wants to make us a de facto member of the union, Ashley argues, but it will be about real membership, but about passive, and this is very dangerous, opponents of integration say.

In Switzerland, many citizens are sympathetic to this line of reasoning. A referendum on limiting migration in Switzerland was already held 6 years ago. Then 50.3% of voters voted for it. The European Union put pressure on the Swiss government, threatening to cut bilateral ties. Then the country's parliament made a compromise, allowing Europeans to enter if they had a job offer. Many citizens still believe that this compromise did not take into account the opinion of Swiss citizens expressed during the referendum.

Economic impact

The initiative to limit migration is extremely dangerous for Switzerland itself, Europeans say. In Switzerland, as elsewhere in Europe, there is a problem with qualified personnel. If the influx of labor from outside is stopped, the country's economy will suffer.

The European Union is Switzerland's most important trading partner. If the restrictions are adopted, the country will suffer enormous economic damage, which will affect the living standards of the population. Heinz Karrer, president of the economic union economiesiusse, shows this with figures in hand: “We proceed from the assumption that without agreements with the EU, the income of Swiss families in 15 years will decrease by 3.5-4 thousand francs a year. In recalculation, the Swiss GDP will decline by 6%".

Forecast

If polls are to be believed, the initiative to limit migration will fail today. 63% of citizens disagree with her.

“The latest polls show that about 35% are ready to vote for the initiative”, - says Lucas Golder, president of the GFS in Bern. Only 2% of those surveyed said two weeks ago that they were undecided. Most Swiss want more control over migration and greater independence from the European Union, sociologists say. But Switzerland is a country of pragmatists. Any result will give the country a better outcome of negotiations with Europe. But there is a shift towards the center of the political spectrum.

The Swiss political model has long blocked protest voting. The country hosts referendums several times a year. The Cabinet of Ministers consists of 7 members representing the entire political spectrum, including the right-wing conservatives. Therefore, today's vote cannot be called a protest against the elites.

The country's highly developed economy was a natural brake on populists. The SNP rose after the 2008 crisis, but as the economy recovered, the populists began to lose influence. In last year's election, the Conservatives lost their votes.

In Switzerland, the media followed very closely the progress of the negotiations between the UK and the EU on withdrawal from the union. The Swiss realized that the desire to leave the EU was not enough. Brexit has shown this particularly clearly.

But how many people will vote for restrictive measures will be important for further cooperation. Swiss politics does not live on a winner-take-all principle, says the European diplomat on condition of anonymity. The government will view the initiative vote as a referendum on a bilateral treaty. If there is no consensus in society, the agreement will not be signed soon.

If 45 percent vote to restrict migration, the government will not sign a framework agreement with the EU, conservative Ashley is convinced. Then it will mean a victory for SNP. Like many hardliners on Brexit in England, Swiss populists also believe that the tougher, the stronger the country's position in negotiations with the 300 million EU.

But as always in politics, the glass is only half empty or full. Europeans say Switzerland will lose without Europe. The Swiss believe that the country's good relations with Europeans ensure the country is ranked third on the list of exporters.

And both sides are right.

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