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

Schengen Is Part of the „acquis communautaire“ and Will Remain So

Since a couple of days, the proposal of the German and the French Ministers of Interior haunt the European public: The Schengen Agreement should be „switched out“ for a maximum (and renewable?) duration of 30 days, not only on initiative of the European Commission (which can be asked for by Member State governments), but by the governments themselves, without prior approval of the EU Commission. This would mean again national border controls at the discretion of the Member States – and a substantial reduction of what the European citizens feel as freedom of movement. The coordinating authority in the EU is said by the initiators of this proposal to be not able to coordinate, without example, and it is their governments, by the way, who keep the EU Commission always as small as possible.

This – I am sorry, idiotic – proposal is an assault to the „acquis communautaire“; this is what the EU understands under all its political, economic and legal achievements, and all e.g. Eastern European accession states, be their accession negotiations finished or not yet, had and have to sign that they would recognize the acquis. The proposal between France and Germany may have the character of election campaign aid, and as such it is not to be taken serious, but it is also mere populism. And the more populist solutions are taken out of the bag in all situations of life, the more the European citizens get the impression that problems can be solved with populism. This is absolutely unserious: We might have small problems with immigration, due to the lack of approriate means – police staff and financial means – in two of the weakest countries of the EU, Malta and Greece. There is already now the possibility to short term national border controls, and the question is only to ask Brussels for approval. There is no hint at all, no previous complaint, that the Commission in Brussels has handled these requests too slowly.

There are a lot of alternatives against any possible illegal immigration wave:

– better training of police forces in the Member States,

– direct and indirect assistace to Malta and Greece – especially Malta as the smallest Member State cannot bear what it bears for the whole EU!,

– a kind of EU Marshal Plan for North Africa, and the countries behind – this means an enlargement of the present European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The people there would need perspectives at home, where they basically want to stay, without government and administration corruption, with human rights, with economic perspectives. All this can be positively influenced by the EU.

Populism and working against a European image as such is frequently the case with the Bavarian Christian-Social Union (CSU), the government party since WW II there, which may need a replacement at the next Land elections, just to become a bit more „normal“. The same is the case with the French government – in the past, presence and probably also future. Although there would be a substantial difference to an old Danish proposal to introduce permanent border controls, the origin of these demands is coincident. Denmark has rowed back, in France it does not play a too big role at all, and in Germany it is discussed hotly, mainly all public statements against this initiative. No miracle, as the German Minister of Interior has clearly spoken out against the former Danish plans, and now he does this …

All European citizens have to unite and to stand up when it comes to their basic freedoms – be it in Hungary, be it in France / Germany regarding free circulation, etc. Because this initiative merits, as a European fart in the sense of the Le Pen family, or of the neo-Nazi German NPD who says the same, and nothing more, to be where it merits to be: in the trash of European history.