Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). It was of course an English newspaper – the “Independent” – that coined the term “Swexit” in the run-up to the Swiss referendum last Sunday, analogous to Brexit. Well, in contrast to Great Britain, Switzerland was never a member of the EU and that is why there was no question of leaving the club last weekend. However, almost: if the Swiss voters had accepted the “Begrenzungsinitiative” or “Limitation Initiative” (BGI) of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and ended the freedom of movement in relation to the EU, this would have had dramatic consequences for the relationship between Switzerland and the EU. The so-called guillotine would have capped the bilateral agreements on trade, transport and research that had been painstakingly negotiated between Bern and Brussels for 20 years. It is no wonder that the Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter noticed that if the initiative had been accepted, it would have been “worse than Brexit” for her country.
The voters were evidently very aware of this – they rejected the SVP initiative stunningly”, as one likes to say here: with a clear 61.7 per cent. Only four of the 26 cantons found a majority in favour of the proposal. Voters inflicted the worst defeat on the SVP, after all the largest party in the country, since the election of their “People’s Tribune” Christoph Blocher from the government in 2007 – and this on the SVP’s core issues: immigration and relationship to the EU. According to analysts, Switzerland is in the process of a socio-political awakening. After dominating right-wing tendencies, a left-liberal trend is now increasingly emerging.
For the fifth time, the Swiss confederates have voted in favour of the freedom of movement and thus set a striking symbol of their solidarity with Europe. In these times of the Coronavirus crisis in particular, they did not want to endanger the relationship with their most important trading partner: 60 per cent of exports go to the EU, more than half a million Swiss people live and work in the EU, and 1.4 million EU citizens, conversely, in Switzerland – many of them in healthcare. The majority of Swiss voters listened to reason and not emotions – which SVP propaganda tried to stir up: This spoke of uncontrolled and excessive immigration, which is driving up housing prices, overloading public transport and overburdening social services. SVP posters showed a stout person with blue trousers and an EU star belt, who makes himself comfortable on a relief of Switzerland that bursts under the weight: “Too much is too much!” was the slogan. The fact is that around a quarter of the 8.6 million inhabitants are foreigners, but net immigration to Switzerland has been falling for years.
The quote reads: “The Swiss have shown their solidarity with Europe.”