René Schwok cached version 12/07/2018 15:40:14 en The Swiss vote to curb immigration, and what it means for Europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On February 9, Swiss voters narrowly approved the reintroduction of quotas on immigration, damaging Swiss-EU relations in the process. Why did the Swiss vote this way? Does it have anything to do with Robin Hood? And will this impact on the EU membership debate in the UK?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt=""Mass immigration harms". A campaign poster in Zurich. Demotix/Erik Tham. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">"Mass immigration harms". A campaign poster in Zurich. Demotix/Erik Tham. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><span>The proposal by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is now part of the Swiss Constitution as article 121a. It was approved by just 50.3 percent of voters. This result came as a surprise, as the last opinion polls before the vote forecasted a majority of 7 to 15 percent for the “no” vote.</span></p> <p>Seen from the outside, it is difficult to understand how the Swiss could cast such a vote – a protest vote – when they are enjoying the benefits of an overall excellent economic situation. Switzerland managed to remain largely unscathed by the debt crisis and recession that plunged the rest of Europe into turmoil. The effects of the 2008 economic crisis were barely felt in the Alpine country: the level of unemployment remains the lowest in Europe (3 percent) and the national debt is ridiculously low (35 percent).</p> <h2>Voting patterns</h2> <p>One aspect of the 9 February vote in particular defies a rational explanation of political behaviour. Cantons that have the highest rate of immigrants, and the highest level of unemployment, voted <em>en masse</em> against the initiative (and thus against the introduction of immigration quotas), while those least concerned by immigration and unemployment clearly voted in favour.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="368" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Click to enlarge. Source: <a href="">Martin Grandjean</a>.</span></p> <p>This suggests that identity elements played a key role in voting preferences. The referendum showed a clear divide between the different language regions of the country, and between more urban and less urban zones. A majority in the German- and Italian-speaking parts voted for the immigration curb, while French-speaking cantons voted against. Yet, Swiss-German cities such as Zurich, Bern and Basel rejected the proposal, while some Swiss-French suburbs, little towns and rural communities were in favour. Historically, German-speaking Switzerland has been more self-focused and in need of affirming its own identity, for example through the wide use of the <em>Schwyzerdütsch</em> dialect. The same could be said of Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton, which was the most overwhelmingly in favour of the referendum. In various polls, people in German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland tend to feel more at threat culturally, from Germany or Italy. In the Romandie (French part), on the other hand, French cultural influence is not necessarily seen as a bad thing. One doesn't feel the need for so much protection.</p> <h2><strong>A typically Swiss xenophobic vote?&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>Outside Switzerland, two types of explanation were offered for the February 9 result. The first is essentialist and often appeared in the British press. For example, in <em>The</em> <em>Economist</em>, there were <a href="">many references</a> to the "Swiss reputation for doughty independence since the days of William Tell”. This explanation is as subtle as analysing support for UKIP through a throwback to Robin Hood. In other European countries such as France, the idea of Swiss xenophobia was emphasized. For instance, the daily <em>Libération</em> dedicated its <a href="">cover</a> to the "Swiss virus" and French Minister Arnaud Montebourg spoke of a “<em>Le Pen-isation</em> of the mind”. </p><p>So was the Swiss vote a victory for populist xenophobia&nbsp;? Partly yes, partly no. On the one hand, the “yes” vote was indeed populist because the arguments of the Swiss People’s Party were simplistic, denied the complexity of the matter, and cajoled the "true" Swiss people against the Europhile and out of touch elites. The vote was also xenophobic because all of the (relatively small) problems of Switzerland were blamed on foreigners – particularly Muslims. The blame game encompassed everything, from the shortage and high price of accommodation, social dumping and criminality to increasing traffic jams and overcrowded trains.</p> <p>On the other hand, the referendum responded to genuine concerns over Switzerland’s mushrooming population, which grew 14 percent between 2000 and 2013. In 2001, as the Swiss-EU Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons was about to come into effect, the Swiss government estimated that the country would welcome around 8,000 immigrants per year – this figure turned out to be 77,000 on average every year. For a population of 8 million people, this represents an increase of one percent per year. To give a comparison with Britain, this would mean a yearly influx of 650,000 people. Today, foreigners constitute 23.5 percent of Switzerland’s population, as against 12 percent in the UK.</p> <p>These few facts help explain why traditional populist xenophobic arguments were successful this time around - contrary to their failure in numerous previous referendums on immigration or the relationship with the EU.</p> <h2><strong>Future relations with the EU and “<em>Trompe-l’oeil</em>” quotas</strong></h2> <p>No matter what its causes, the Swiss vote has soured relations with the European Union. The popular initiative reintroduces quotas, as well as national preference for filling job vacancies. Quite obviously, immigration caps are incompatible with the free movement of people agreement whereby EU nationals are free to work or live in Switzerland. The EU could now legally cancel a series of key bilateral agreements (this is referred to as the <em>Guillotine</em> clause). It has, in fact, already suspended participation in the Erasmus exchange programme for Swiss students and cut European funding to Swiss universities. Other agreements such as Switzerland’s participation in the Schengen area may also be terminated. </p> <p>The initiative forces Switzerland to renegotiate its bilateral accord on the free movement of people with the EU within three years. Because the SVP's initiative runs contrary not only to the letter but also to the spirit of the agreement with the EU, there is little hope for EU concessions on contending issues such as family reunification or national preference. There is indeed not much room for manoeuvre for the Swiss government, and the job of Swiss diplomats looks like a mission impossible.</p> <p>One way out, however, could be the introduction of "<em>trompe-l'oeil</em>" quotas. There, the Swiss government could take advantage of the vague phrasing of the popular initiative, which doesn't mention precise immigration quotas, specifying only that these should be set by taking into account the “global economic interests of Switzerland”. Bern could, for example, set ceilings high enough to absorb more or less all flows from the EU. The mechanisms put in place during the transitional period for the implementation of the free movement agreement (from 2002 till 2008) could in this regard serve as a template for defining quotas, reinstating border controls etc. It is however not clear if this solution would be acceptable to the European side, including the EU Court of Justice. Nor is it known whether it would be compatible with the demands of the Swiss People’s Party – whose leaders could call for a second referendum if they felt their demands were unanswered.</p> <h2><strong>The British factor</strong></h2> <p>The Swiss vote has also had consequences for the UK's EU membership debate. This further complicates the Swiss matter, but also suggests change within the EU as a possible solution.</p> <p>David Cameron wants to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU and submit the new terms to a domestic referendum in 2017. As restrictions on the freedom of movement of people are one of his keys demands, and in light of the Swiss referendum, EU leaders are facing a dilemma and it is yet not clear in which direction they are heading.&nbsp;</p> <p>On the one hand, they can adopt a tough attitude against the Swiss, reminding them that freedom of movement constitutes a fundamental principle of the EU, rejecting the idea of a "<em>Europe à la carte</em>" and hence send a clear signal to UKIP and other Eurosceptics. Or, on the other hand, they can accommodate (some of) these demands, accept more flexible modalities of EU association and thus give Cameron ammunition for his referendum campaign. The British PM could then call for maintaining the UK in the EU since he was able to repatriate significant powers on the free movement of persons to Westminster, following a "new" Swiss model.</p> <p>This new model of Swiss-EU relations, however, has yet to be defined.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ren%C3%A9-schwok/brexit-swiss-model-as-blueprint">&#039;Brexit&#039;: the Swiss model as a blueprint ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hans-steketee/how-swiss-see-%E2%80%98swiss-option%E2%80%99">How the Swiss see the ‘Swiss option’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ivan-ureta/abusing-swiss-system-of-direct-democracy-swiss-peoples-party-aims-to-stop-mass-immigratio">Abusing the Swiss system of direct democracy: the Swiss People&#039;s Party aims to stop &quot;mass immigration&quot;.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/thomas-w-bechtler/danger-of-majority-tyranny">The danger of majority tyranny</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Switzerland </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk Switzerland UK René Schwok Tributaries of the right Migration in Europe Drifting apart: where to for Europe and Britain? Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:27:16 +0000 René Schwok 79693 at 'Brexit': the Swiss model as a blueprint ? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With British Eurosceptics such as Boris Johnson openly calling for UK withdrawal from the EU, Switzerland has often been mentioned as the model to follow, for having gained access to the Market while retaining its national sovereignty and democratic rights. Yet, the Swiss-EU relationship is not without problems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="" alt="Shutterstock/mato. All rights reserved." width="460" height="305" /><span class="image-caption">Is the Swiss way the right way?&nbsp;Shutterstock/mato. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>In recent years, there has been increased debate about the issue of the&nbsp;United Kingdom&nbsp;leaving&nbsp;the&nbsp;European Union.&nbsp;Some Eurosceptics&nbsp;grab at two halfway options: the&nbsp;European Economic Area (EEA) and the Swiss-EU bilateral model.</p><p>For instance, the mayor of London, Boris&nbsp;Johnson, called for the creation of a new place called "Britzerland" in the Swiss weekly <a href=""><em>Die&nbsp;Weltwoche</em></a>. He expressed his hope for the UK and Switzerland to become founding members of a new outer tier of the European Union, which will enjoy free trade with the EU, while opting out of all other policies drawn up in Brussels.</p><p>British newspapers reacted with traditional cliches about Switzerland,&nbsp;<a href="">mentioning once again</a>&nbsp;the famous quip by Orson Welles playing Harry Lime in The Third Man: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.&nbsp;In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace &ndash; and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."&nbsp;The Economist&nbsp;published&nbsp;<a href="">a more substantial analysis</a>&nbsp;but without being seemingly aware of the current institutional disputes between the EU and Switzerland.</p><p>In this article, we will focus on the Swiss option and not analyse in detail the European Economic Area (EEA) although keeping it as a benchmark.</p><p>The European Economic Area (EEA) comprises Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and the European Union (EU). It allows these three countries to participate in the&nbsp;<a title="Internal Market (European Union)" href="">EU's Internal Market</a>&nbsp;without being&nbsp;<a title="Member State of the European Union" href="">members of the EU</a>. They are obliged to adopt the evolution of all EU legislation related to the single market (except on agriculture and fisheries),&nbsp;while being unable to take part in the making of decisions. In 2012, a Norwegian panel of experts argued that their government could not be held accountable for most of its European policy. Thus, according to these experts the main shortcomings of EEA membership are related to a problem of &lsquo;democratic deficit&rsquo;. (The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprises the three non-EU members of the EEA, plus Switzerland.)</p><h3>The Swiss option</h3><p>These problems linked to the EEA explain the interest in the Swiss option.&nbsp;By means of a popular referendum, Swiss voters widely rejected EEA membership in 1992, a clear message that made the Swiss government indefinitely freeze EU accession talks - and pursue negotiations with the EU on a bilateral basis.</p><p><em>Prima facie</em>, the Swiss example&nbsp;attracts many&nbsp;British Eurosceptics because it provides an example of a relatively flexible&nbsp;arrangement through sectorial bilateral agreements which may better preserve sovereignty.&nbsp;</p><p>In comparison with the EEA, the Bilateral Agreements enable a third-party country (in this case Switzerland) to negotiate with the EU on an individual basis.&nbsp;This freedom of action is in part limited by the multilateral structure of the EEA, which obliges the EFTA-pillar countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to speak with one voice. In contrast, Switzerland is not obliged to harmonize its position with its EFTA partners before dealing with the European Union.</p><p>The structure of the Bilateral Agreements is relatively light as it did not create any new institutions but only small joint and mixed committees to manage the many agreements that have already been signed and implemented. This distinguishes it from the EEA, which is based on a somehow heavy two-pillar system relying on several institutions, of which some are supranational or partly supranational.&nbsp;</p><p>The vast majority of the Bilateral agreements are not governed by a Community or para-Community justice mechanisms akin to the Court of Justice of the EU or the EFTA Court. Similarly, there are no strict monitoring procedures from supranational institutions such as the EFTA Surveillance Authority. Instead, these agreements are based on a "balanced" political mechanism which preserves, at least formally, Switzerland's sovereignty: the Joint Committees that are composed of experts from both parties.</p><p>This framework is reinforced by the fact that these agreements do not include mandatory adoption of new relevant Community legislation. Instead, they allow for renegotiation on a case-by-case basis depending on the political will of the parties. This stands in sharp contrast with the EEA regime in which EFTA-pillar countries are&nbsp;<em>de facto</em>&nbsp;obliged to rapidly integrate developments of the relevant&nbsp;<em>acquis&nbsp;</em>without the possibility of engaging in real negotiations, considerable amendments or feasible opt-outs. There are, however, exceptions concerning air transport&nbsp;competition and Schengen legislation.</p><p>As a result, the homogeneity that is established as a basic principle within the EEA, along with the Community pillar and the EFTA-states pillar, is not comparable to the mostly flexible agreements negotiated between Switzerland and the EU.&nbsp;</p><p>Finally, unlike the EEA, the Bilateral Agreements flexible framework allows both parties to freely choose their areas of co-operation. Nonetheless, it is important to note that demands of Switzerland regarding the opening of negotiations in new areas were not always met by the European Commission.</p><h3>The bilateral approach - largely deadlocked since 2008</h3><p>Although those bilateral agreements enabled Switzerland to benefit from interesting aspects of EU integration without suffering most of its drawbacks, one should not underestimate the many difficulties that this bilateral approach has also encountered.</p><p>Since 2008 there have been no new significant agreements concluded. This stalemate can be attributed to the EU&rsquo;s demand that it reconsiders the approach taken by Switzerland to participate in EU policies and programmes through sectorial agreements in the absence of any horizontal institutional framework.</p><p>The EU wants to ensure the homogeneous interpretation and application of the Internal Market rules. In particular, the EU deems it necessary to establish a suitable framework applicable to all existing and future agreements. This framework should, <em>inter alia</em>, provide for a legally binding mechanism as regards the adaptation of the agreements to the evolving EU&nbsp;<em>acquis</em>.</p><p>The EU has called on Switzerland to adopt an institutional framework that would enable a dynamic adaptation of the accords to the constantly evolving European legislation &ndash; as well as a uniform interpretation of these accords.</p><p>Brussels is also keen on an independent mechanism for monitoring and carrying out legal decisions in addition to a&nbsp;mechanism for settling disputes.</p><p>Furthermore, it should include international mechanisms for surveillance and judicial control. All in all, this institutional framework should present a level of legal certainty and independence equivalent to the mechanisms created under the EEA Agreement.</p><p>Last summer, former Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf sent a letter to Brussels with the following principles that would serve as the basis for future negotiations with the EU on the institutional issues:</p><p>First, Switzerland made an important concession to recognize that the principle of homogeneity, a principle that requires dynamic adaptation to the evolving EU&nbsp;acquis, should be at the core of the EU-Switzerland relationship.&nbsp;</p><p>&bull; Dynamic adoption of laws: the adoption of new laws should be dynamic but not automatic. When adjusting to a new law, the provisions of the Swiss constitution, including the possibility to carry our referendums, must be ensured at all times. With new developments in legislation concerning the agreements, Switzerland shall participate in the form of &laquo;decision-shaping&raquo;.</p><p>&bull; National surveillance authority: in reference to the competences of the European Commission, Switzerland proposes an independent national surveillance authority to oversee the implementation of the bilateral agreements in Switzerland.</p><p>&bull; Complaints about contractual violations: in the event of a violation of the terms of agreement, the Swiss supervisory authority could open a court procedure. An institutionalised dialogue between Swiss and EU highest courts would be established to ensure homogeneity in jurisprudence.</p><p>&bull; Compensatory measures: differences of opinion between the parties should be dealt with primarily in the mixed committees. If a mixed committee cannot reach an agreement within a set period of time, the disadvantaged party may resort to appropriate and proportional compensatory measures.</p><p>&bull; An arbitration court can review the scope, duration and proportionality of a particular compensatory measure.</p><p>In conclusion, the Swiss model might have set an example for Britain if it was not challenged by the European Union. But this model no longer exists because the EU wants its relationship with Switzerland to move closer to the EEA benchmark.&nbsp;</p><p>The bilateral approach will, however, continue, even if it will not preserve as much as in the past of Swiss sovereignty. But the Swiss option will remain more attractive to the British sovereignists than EEA membership - because it will stay bilateral (and not multilateral) and sectorial &ndash; after all, what they want is an EU&nbsp;&agrave; la carte.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/charles-grant/how-britain-could-leave-eu">How Britain could leave the EU</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hans-steketee/how-swiss-see-%E2%80%98swiss-option%E2%80%99">How the Swiss see the ‘Swiss option’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Switzerland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk Switzerland UK Democracy and government Economics International politics europe René Schwok Drifting apart: where to for Europe and Britain? Mon, 07 Jan 2013 19:07:22 +0000 René Schwok 70248 at René Schwok <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> René Schwok </div> </div> </div> <p>René Schwok is a professor and the director of the Master Programme in European Affairs at the <a href="">Global Studies Institute</a>, University of Geneva, Switzerland.</p> René Schwok Mon, 07 Jan 2013 17:26:50 +0000 René Schwok 70249 at