Nearly 5.3 million Swiss voters will decide whether to annul a pact with the European Union on the free movement of people, an important test of attitudes towards foreigners who make up a quarter of the country’s population.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – the biggest in the parliament – has led the charge for Sunday’s referendum to take back control of immigration, echoing some of the arguments pro-Brexit politicians used in the run-up to Britain’s exit from the EU.
However, a gfs.bern poll found that 63 percent of respondents oppose the SVP proposal and 35 percent support it, suggesting voters want stability at a time of economic uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.
The SVP paints a gloomy picture of young foreigners supplanting older Swiss citizens, housing prices rising, schools and transport becoming overcrowded and construction running rampant.
Opponents say the plan would rob businesses of skilled workers and torpedo accords that enhance Switzerland’s access to the bloc’s single market.
Citizens of the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which with Switzerland are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), made up 68 percent of the 2.1 million resident foreigners in the country in 2019. More than 450,000 Swiss citizens live in the EU.
While not an EU member, Switzerland is bound to the bloc through an array of intricately connected bilateral agreements.
Ending free movement from the EU is likely to topple other bilateral pacts on land and air transport, procurement, technical barriers to trade, and research.
If the SVP initiative passes, authorities would have one year to negotiate an end to the 1999 agreement on the free movement of people between Switzerland and the bloc.
The proposal goes even further than a similar measure, also backed by the SVP, that narrowly passed in February 2014, demanding that Bern impose quotas on the number of work permits issued to EU citizens.
That vote threw Swiss-EU relations into disarray, with Brussels warning that any curbs on immigration by EU citizens would put a whole range of bilateral agreements at risk.
ern struggled for years to find a way to respect the vote without permanently alienating EU neighbours.
After lengthy talks, an agreement reached in late 2016 stopped far short of an initial quotas plan, which Brussels had fiercely rejected.
Instead, Bern opted merely to require Swiss employers to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops before hiring from the bloc, and to prioritise Swiss job seekers, at least ostensibly.
The SVP condemned that compromise as a “betrayal” and launched its new initiative.
Votes on the SVP’s initiative and several other issues had been scheduled to take place in May but were postponed as coronavirus lockdown measures prevented campaigning.
Most Swiss vote in advance in the popular polls and referendums held in the country every few months, and ballot boxes generally open for just a few hours on voting day for those wishing to cast their vote in person.
Polls open at different times in different cantons, but will all close by midday (10:00 GMT), with initial results expected by early afternoon.
- Medical Doctor gets emotional on Joy FM over debt exchange
- Black Stars’ Christian Atsu reportedly missing after earthquake in Turkey
- My loss to Manny Pacquiao was deliberate – Joshua Clottey
- Haruna Iddrisu accepts changes in Minority leadership
- Muntaka accepts Minority leadership reshuffle after meeting with Mahama
- Over 1000 dead as huge quake toppled buildings in Turkey and Syria while people slept
- ‘God, please’ – Asamoah Gyan prays for Christian Atsu, other celebs join
- Cedi continues recent gain against dollar; $1 now ¢10.40
- It is sad BoG unlawfully printed $3.3bn for government – IEA Director of Research
- Government unlikely to pay ¢4.185bn 5-year bond maturing on February 6, 2023
- We’ve amicably resolved impasse over change in Minority Leadership – NDC Council of Elders
- Accra-Tema Motorway no longer fits definition of motorway – NRSA
- SMEs without certification could lose out on ACFTA benefits – Trade Ministry warns
- Livestream: PM Express discusses DDEP and government’s trust deficit
- All set for Kwabena Kwabena’s ‘Vitamilk Love Night’ show on Feb. 11
- Non-participation in DDEP will prolong efforts to resolve current economic crisis – Ofori-Atta
- If you want to get the best out of your employee, compensate them – HR Instructor advises employers
- Sign up for debt exchange ahead of deadline – Ofori-Atta counsels bondholders
- Joy Entertainment Unpacked: Highlighting Guiltybeatz’s Grammys recognition
- Turkey earthquake: Atsu pulled out of rubble alive, says Portugese portal
- DDEP will bring economic stability and growth – Finance Minister
- Ankaful inmates get medical supplies from Tobinco Pharmaceuticals
- Suame traders fume; resist planned demolition of market
- Jesse Morgan recruits Celestine Donkor for inspiring single, Wataban (Wings of God)
- Diaspora Girls’ Senior High School launches 20th anniversary celebration