Switzerland May Face Problems with the European Union

Today Switzerland has approved by a referendum with slightly more than 50% and a turnout of 56% in the vote the limitation of Immigration, although it is obliged to keep free circulation with European Union workers. Although business circles have warned of such a result as Swiss economy Needs and will Need many foreign workers, it had been predicted by polls. Evidently, the Swiss voting population has followed xenophobic arguments rather than voices of European solidarity and economic rationality.

Now Switzerland will have to change its legislation into the restricted direction within three years. We will see what comes out. In any way, the European Union has to react somehow, as free movement of people cannot be separated from free movement of goods, services and capital – this is evident and every Swiss knows it. Also, Switzerland may become now, on the explicit request of its own population (which was not shared by the Government) a kind of „paria“ in European politics. As the „Bilaterals“, how the Bilateral Agreements with the EU are called in Switzerland, might soon be not worth the paper they are written on, the question will arise what an Agreement with Switzerland is worth at all if it is recalled by an immediate referendum, and how reliable this state is – although the state has only given good examples for reliability. But as the EU is snubbed now, there must and will be a retaliation by the EU. There will be very many examples for this; one of the best examples for this might be the case when the EU does not speak with Switzerland in some fields. There may be also an EU legislation where Switzerland is not consulted beforehand. The damage may, however, be limited. I personally do regret the result of this vote very strongly, as I have many contacts to Swiss Europeans and live quite close to the Swiss border and therefore know a bit about this country. Maybe this provincialist vote may have an effect, namely to bring those Swiss more into the offensive who advocate a full membership in the EU. We have learned that either present or new Member States of the EU have restrictions in free movement, without problems, which of course is not not the case in Switzerland. Switzerland has outed themselves now as a country whose population tries to „pick out“ only the goodies, but is not willing to carry any responsibilities – as I mentioned, this does not concern the government, but the overall population. About the ethical background of this vote there will be written more in the near future; in any case this goes very well in the direction of the famous public vote where the set-up of new mosques in Switzerland has been limited. This has been confirmed now by the open xenophobic and not very far-looking vote today.

Of course, this popular vote has to and will vbe respected. But it will not be accepted, and Switzerland will have to carry ist Long-term consequences.

It confirms that today a public vote or referendum in the middle of a legislative term is more and more abused as a punishment for the government or as an outbreak of populist tendencies. This is the real morality to EU citizens who are confronted with likewise requests and political programmes almost everywhere. In Switzerland it shows a structural problem of direct democracy: While it may have been justified in the times of Wilhelm Tell more than 700 years ago, a modern information society (which is always claimed for Switzerland, but one can really doubt this) with a partly contested government form is clearly sensible for populist arguments, which always come from a political extreme, and this mainly from the right. In addition, it shows also the end of the „example Switzerland“ for any other Country. From today, Switzerland is a third country for the EU like all the others.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka