Monday, 10 February 2014

Swiss defiance towards the EU

"Halt to freedom of circulation", headlines Corriere del Ticino, the day after Swiss voters decided by a narrow margin to stop "massive immigration" into their country. The referendum, initiated by the populist UDC party, aimed at limiting the right of establishment for non-Swiss foreigners as well as the asylum right for refugees. As a consequence, the federal government will have to renegotiate the bilateral agreements with the EU on freedom of circulation.

The 9 February vote sounds like a "triple defiance motion", writes (paywall) the Lugano daily —
towards Brussels and one of the union's fundamental pillars. With its vote, the Swiss people tells the EU that the single market has to be corrected so as to allow the countries that are part of it to introduce measures limiting one of the fundamental freedoms, European citizens' freedom of circulation within the EU. With this defiance motion, Bern puts the EU in a rather difficult position towards its own less enthusiastic and most eurosceptical members, starting with Britain. And not only towards those asking the UE to give back some bits of sovereignty.

In another editorial, columnist Marcello Foa explains the reasons behind the vote:
Is Switzerland going to close its border tomorrow, causing the 60,000-plus Italian workers who cross the Ticino Canton border every day to lose their jobs? Of course not.
The Swiss people told the Federal Council [the Swiss government] to renegotiate the existing treaties and to introduce laws to set up limits to the foreign workforce according to "the global interests of the Helvetic economy". In three years' time. After that, we'll see. Better, we'll see before: it won't be necessary to wait three years to understand how far this vote goes and that it does not match with the Helvetic people's will. Let me be clear: this vote is historical because it anticipates the feeling that a growing number of European populations are experiencing towards the European Union and supranational organisations. A feeling that will burst in the upcoming European elections. Though they live in comfort, Swiss feel they are not fully sovereign and that they do not master their destiny any more. They see traditions and social contracts that seemed to be indestructible being continuously eroded in the most opaque way.

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