The Swiss value their relations with the European Union (EU). The SVP’s moderate immigration initiative was rejected Sunday by 61.7% of voters. The “no” was mainly carried by urban centers and the French-speaking cantons.
Basel-City (74.6%) had the most opponents to the text. It is followed by the other border cantons that are Neuchâtel (71.1%), Vaud (70.9%), Geneva (69%) and Jura (68.1%). Only four cantons, including Ticino (53.1%), voted for the text.
The UDC thus failed to renew the surprise of February 9, 2014. Deeming the implementation of the text insufficient, the conservative party and the Action for an independent and neutral Switzerland had put the cover back. The so-called limitation initiative required Switzerland to regulate its immigration autonomously.
During the campaign, the SVP played on the fears of young and older workers of being sidelined by cheaper foreigners. Opponents, on the contrary, underlined that free movement is beneficial to Switzerland’s economic and scientific place. Swiss companies need foreign workers and trade is intrinsically linked to Europe.
Avoided “Swiss Brexit”
The “no” camp thus convinced the Swiss to avoid a “Swiss Brexit”, free movement being linked by a guillotine clause to six other bilateral agreements.
On Sunday, the winners’ camp was satisfied with the clarity of the result. For the fourth time, the Swiss have repelled an attack on our good relations with Europe, responded Operation Libero. “The SVP is now called to accept this clear message and to give up blocking the bilateral model.”
Ticinese State Councilor Christian Vitta (PLR), whose canton accepted the limitation initiative with a much lower score than in 2014, believes that the current economic situation has made the difference. The Ticinese did not want to run the risk of additional uncertainty.
The economy needs stable relations, legal certainty as well as economic prospects, summed up Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. “The bilateral path is the right path for Switzerland”.
Framework agreement, the next battle
After this clear “no”, the Federal Council will be able to reconsider the framework agreement with the European Union. He will have to fix Bern’s position in the coming weeks, before resuming language with Brussels on the points still pending, said the Federal Councilor.
For the new SVP president Marco Chiesa, this framework agreement will be the next challenge. Ticinese will fight this text which “would make us lose our sovereignty”. He points in particular to the dynamic takeover by Switzerland of European law and the role of the judgments of the European Court of Justice.
For the other protagonists, the agreement as it stands is not satisfactory either and the ball is now in the court of the Federal Council. This “must clarify certain aspects with the EU quickly, then decide according to the results”, declared the director of economiesuisse Monika Rühl.
For Pierre-Yves Maillard, “there are two options: either renegotiate the agreement or stop the exercise. As it stands, the text“ is going to fail. ”The social partners have expressed their opposition to this project in a letter to the government, they are critical of wage guarantees, state aid and the citizenship directive.
Despite everything, we will not “cut” to this framework agreement, considers the national councilor Philippe Nantermod (PLR / VS), the current texts, dating from the 1990s, being outdated. “The Federal Council now has a little more leeway to negotiate. We can find good alternatives”, he thinks.
The EU is now counting on a “rapid” signing of the project on the table. I now expect the Federal Council to quickly take steps to sign and ratify the framework agreement, “European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a written position paper.