15 May 2017

Opportunity or deadlock?

The SVP and the association "Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland" (AINS) are far from being comfortable with the freedom of movement of persons agreement with the EU. By means of three proposals, they are attacking this freedom of movement: The freedom of movement of persons should no longer be allowed; the freedom of movement of persons should be denounced; or the principle of freedom of movement of persons should be absolutely prohibited.

The SVP feel that the initiative against mass immigration adopted by the people on 9 February 2014 has not been satisfactorily implemented and that therefore it is no longer just the symptoms, but the causes of immigration that must be combated.

The working group, which presented the three variants, will, together with its members, decide on them in the coming weeks. The three variants are to be worked out at the delegate conference of the SVP on the National Initiative for the Restraint of Free Immigration (Restriction Initiative) in Lausen BL on June 24, 2017. The intention of AINS and the SVP is to launch the Restriction Initiative, which could already be possible in the second half of 2017.

If the initiative comes to fruition and is put to the people's vote, such a vote will lead to a fundemental decision on the route the Swiss bilateral relationship with the European Union (EU) will take in the future. Specifically, Bilateral I which, in addition to the freedom of movement of persons, includes six other agreements, such as technical barriers to trade, research or air transport. Bilateral I agreements are equipped with so-called guillotine clauses, i.e.  if one of the agreements is terminated by a party, all other agreements are deemed to be terminated. The EU will not allow Switzerland to cherry-pick and terminate only the freedom of movement of persons agreement.

If Switzerland wants to continue to benefit from the exchange of goods, services, know-how and thereby profit from the people behind them, it must cooperate internationally and in particular with the EU. In respect of the freedom of movement of persons, the Restriction Initiative could in the truest sense of the word lead to a restricted Swiss economic area. In particular, the existence of SMEs which are dependent on exports could be threatened with the termination of Bilateral I.

It is to be hoped that the SVP and AINS will be able to draw up a really concise initiative text for the Restriction Initiative, which will clearly convey to the people what is at stake. Apart from the Restriction Initiative, there are already other similar national initiatives in the pipeline. Worth mentioning is the initiative "Get out of the dead end", which wants to delete the immigration article completely from the constitution. It has already been rejected by the Federal Council, but the parliament has until 27 April 2018 to decide on its voting recommendation.

Author: Urs Haegi

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