UPDATE 04/07/2016: Switzerland has seven months left to implement a cap on migration from the EU, in line with the referendum held in February 2014. Frantic negotiations have been going on behind the scenes to maintain Swiss access to the European Single Market, but the recent Brexit vote has enormously complicated matters.
The latest proposal from the Swiss side is a so-called “safeguard clause”, permitting Switzerland to temporarily suspend EU migration in specific sectors should those sectors experience higher-than-average unemployment rates (as long as the EU agrees, on a case-by-case basis). That’s not quite the blanket immigration cap that Swiss voters perhaps believed they would be getting in 2014, but it might be enough to satisfy both the Swiss constitution and EU freedom of movement rules.
However, Brexit changes things. If Switzerland is given an opt-out, then the UK will also want one. So, once again, some Swiss politicians are pushing for rerun of the referendum. If Switzerland is given an opt-out from EU freedom of movement rules, will the UK want one too? Should EU negotiators play hardball with the Swiss? Or would it be better to find a compromise agreement?
ORIGINAL 21/02/2014: The European Union hasn’t had the best of times when it comes to referendums. First the Dutch and French rejected the European Constitution in referendums in 2005, then the Irish said ‘No’ to the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008, and most recently the Swiss have chosen to set a cap on levels of EU migration. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but a series of bilateral agreements the two partners have signed together are now in question following the Swiss result.
Following the Irish referendum in 2008, the Irish government came under criticism from some quarters (particularly from Eurosceptics) for deciding to hold another referendum the next year. Were the Irish people being asked to vote again until they came back with the ‘right’ answer? To be fair, the government had succeeded in negotiating revisions to the treaty and the subsequent swing in favour was so massive (67% voted in favour on a 59% turnout) that it was clear public opinion had shifted substantially. Still, it was not an experience anybody involved would like to see repeated.
But is that exactly what might happen in Switzerland? We had a question sent in recently from Smills asking what the likely fallout would be from the Swiss referendum. When we put this question to Indrek Tarand, an Estonian MEP with the Greens and a member of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Switzerland, he hinted that he wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland did eventually follow the Irish example:
It seems unlikely, though, that it will actually come to a re-vote. For one thing, the impact of the vote is likely to be noticeable only over the long-term. Theoretically, the package of bilateral agreements between the EU and Switzerland could be cancelled in its entirety by the so-called ‘guillotine clause’, cutting Swiss access to the EU’s Single Market in punishment for the referendum results. However, as the bilateral agreements are so broad and cover areas that require unanimous approval by EU Member States, it seems likely that one EU member or another would veto such a move.
Certainly, EU governments are giving mixed reactions. When we put Smills’ question to Ireland’s Centre-Right Europe Minister, Paschal Donohoe, he foresaw consequences for Switzerland because of the referendum:
If the people of Switzerland decide that the ability of people to move into their country should be limited, that clearly will have very big and fundamental consequences for the nature of the relationship they have with the European Union, because [freedom of movement] is so core to the European project.
The two additional things I would say in response to that question are, firstly, that we now have to wait and see what the Swiss government and the Swiss Federal Executive is going to do in response to the referendum result within their own country. So, we need to first understand what they’re going to do.
The second thing that we should emphasise, though, is that because the issue they have voted on is so fundamental to the nature of their relationship with the European Union, there will be consequences to their vote in response to what the Swiss government might do in the future.
However, we also had a comment sent in from Razvan-Victor arguing that: “If the EU allows Switzerland to continue with [access to the Single Market], other countries may see it as an example and do the same.”
We took this to Alexander Stubb, Finland’s Minister for European Affairs, whose party currently sits with the Centre-Right in the European Parliament. He seemed more sympathetic to Switzerland’s position:
I disagree. I think the ball is in the Swiss court at this particular moment. Inside the EU, we have EU law which binds us to maintain the free movement of goods, services, money and people. The agreement with the Swiss, however, is an agreement of international law, and I have not yet seen any changes in the policies of the Swiss government that would break international law, and we should take consideration of any change only if and when that comes. The Swiss referendum is a sign of the times, and unfortunately, we have seen a lot of similar anti-immigration sentiment all around Europe.
The Swiss government now has three years to try and renegotiate Switzerland’s EU treaties to make them compatible with the results of the referendum. The biggest risk for the country is not that they are kicked out of the Single Market in three years’ time, but rather that they find themselves slowly drifting out. The EU has already suspended negotiations over joint energy, education and research deals with Switzerland, and indicates that it won’t be willing to sign any future agreements until Switzerland’s position on freedom of movement has been clarified. Unlike the ‘guillotine clause’, if the EU decides to freeze all future agreements it wouldn’t require unanimity from Member States. It might also mean that – as EU law evolves and develops – Switzerland gradually finds itself excluded from large parts of the Single Market as the static bilateral agreements can’t keep up with the changing pace of European integration.
There is a possible way out for the Swiss government, though, which would not require a second vote. The text of the referendum does not mention anything about maximum numbers of immigrants, though it does state that the quotas must take into account Switzerland’s “general economic interests”. According to some experts, it might be possible for the Swiss government to set the eventual quota “very generously”, with the result that it doesn’t practically come into effect.
Most people we spoke to, however, suggested that now is the time for the EU to simply “wait and see” what the Swiss government proposes. Vital Moreira, a Portuguese MEP with the Social Democrats and the Chair of the Committee on International Trade in the European Parliament, takes such an approach, though he goes on to say that he can’t see anything positive on the horizon for Switzerland:
Let’s wait and see. The Swiss government has three years and the EU reaction will depend, of course, on how it is implemented. But it cannot have anything but a negative impact on the other agreements of the package. Switzerland cannot cherry pick and have things that are good economically and just stop making concessions on freedom of circulation, which is key for the EU.
Could the impact of Swiss referendum on capping EU migration be so negative that the Swiss government decides to follow the Irish example and hold another referendum? Or will Switzerland be able to negotiate a solution with the EU that keeps Swiss access to the Single Market? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
Unless they want to renegotiate the agreements that have with EU and there is no guarantee that by doing so, they will get a better deal. In any case, as you can see already from the ads, racism is still well and alive in Europe.
Be careful what you wish for – the Swiss have given billions to support the EU, despite not being a member.
At the moment, the EU is struggling financially, that is one of the reasons why it is having difficulty wresting control of Ukraine from Russia – if Switzerland stopped giving money to the EU too then the EU would have further problems. Also, if Switzerland decided to focus more on the ascendant, growing, booming BRIC and MINT nations, moving jobs from the declining and stagnating EU to said countries then the EU would struggle further.
If the EU does decide to ‘punish’ Switzerland then it becomes more a REGIME than a CLUB. Indeed, countries like the UK would look upon such EU behaviour with absolute DISGUST and its not beyond the realms of credulity to state that such totalitarian behaviour by the EU would fall into the hands of those in the UK that want to leave the EU.
If such an eventuality occurred the EU would lose c12%-15% of its net EU contributions AND Spain and Portugal [and others] would lose a combined
c£3billion/year when the UK gets back its own fishing grounds, putting more strain on the EU’s finances.
Despite its stentorian hectoring, the EU has a very weak hand to play.
@Tarquin: yes i think i’ll stick with an economic bloc of 500,000,000 people rather than a smug small country of racists who are so butthurt their country is being “omg invaded” ( reminds me of an island north of the continent wit ha similar paranoia of “invasion” ).
If the swiss want to play ball, let’s play ball. Once they put their little garbage scheme in effect teh EU should react STRONGLY and show no quarter – cut all economic free trade and impose blood draining tariffs.
If we give off the signal that racists CAN WIN then we run the risk to lose everything to these retrogrades and their medieval thinking.
Same for ANY country thinking of breaking a deal with the EU. Time to flex a bit them muscles.
Maybe if less Rumanians were abusing the Rights of Freedom of Movement to commit crimes like Burglary, Theft, Fraud, Robbery etc. in Switzerland and the rest of Europe maybe then less people would question your countrymens presence and in generall the Freedom of movement rights that make that possible. You call Swiss people racist because you have no argument, whenever someone has no argument they always come with insults or violence which you just prooved, you refuse to ask the obvious question ”why would a Swiss want to limit EU migration into Switzerland?”, well I am a Swiss and I can tell you that we had a very long and hard debate about this topic before we voted on it, both sides had their chance to make their case, the government also gave its position, even the EU meddled and even threatened us voters, in the end the swiss people came to the conclusion that the negative aspects of freedom of movement(cross border crime etc.) had to be addressed, you must understand our position we are not a EU member and dont want to be a EU member but these are treaties that are designed to create a ever closer union as the EU even says on its website, its obvious that the EU desperetely needs the Freedom of movement because they are building a Country called the EU and even a blind pig can realize that by now, however we Swiss do not whish to be part of a EU State and because of this we need to be able to regulate our immigration ourselves as we see fit, if the EU cannot accept a independent Switzerland and has a problem with this then fine, lets the activate the guilliotine clause, go ahead!, sure it will damage Switzerland but im sure the germans and the french will feel it right away and it will hurt, its the ultimate boomerang and even better right now at this volatile time in World Economics lol, so please go ahead, im sure Switzerland will survive, we might be a little less rich and might have to fill out more documents at the border but we will survive.
MARK MY WORDS you will never get this country Switzerland to give up its freedom, its direct democracy, its human rights and ingenuity.
It is not really that negative and no i dont think it is a good idea for them to have another referendum. I mean internationally the EU is becoming yesterdays joke..but that was expected since 2008. The EU cant really do much..yes might renagotiote with the swiss but do they care? is their economy going to be affected by that? not really…the EU is like a small dog. barking, biting and always on the move..of course until someone kicks the small dog that is the EU and it dissapears faster than the speed of light.
I see the politicians are still quoting the often abused statement that “free movement is core to the European Project”
They love to quote this as a core principal because it is written in the Treaty Of Rome……what they fail to say is that this “core principal” was only for workers to move to another country to take up an offer of employment
The current situation where basically anyone and everyone if free to wander into any EU country that they choose and claim whatever they want has only been introduced by much later treaty changes and was never “core” to the EU project
Now don’t go and confuse the little EU-ians with things like facts, reason and logic!
I for one will make the case that this ‘free movement’ is good mostly for corporations, the cosmopolitan set and all sorts of EU jobsworths. Not so much for lower middle class and poorer people in North/Western European countries.
Switzerland, if it’s people are really smart, will have another referendum on immigration and raise the vote to 80% no to more immigrants. If that doesn’t suit the EU, Switzerland must tell them that democracy is the standard they live and rule by and that if this status does not suit them, then why did they accept them as a state within the European Union at all as they knew of this lawful policy within their country? Additionally if the EU doesn’t want to be part of a democratic union, then Switzerland cannot be part of it. It’s that simple.
Should this happen, all EU States must reconsider their position within Europe and ask their citizens if they want to stay being part of a dictatorship, as, Europe cannot be considered democratic if it does not accept the will of its citizens when they go to the ballot box.
Direct Democracy is the only true democracy and Europe must adopt it forthwith. Along with the ‘acceptance of free speech’ which Europe does not know how to handle either. Brussels appears to have enormous difficulty with the freedom of thought, speech and the right of association.
While I agree with you in some points, I will remind you that the Swiss have voted against immigration from within Europe.. If other EU/Schengen countries do the same, there goes one of the few benefits that we as citizens get from our country’s EU membership..freedom of movement.. Say goodbye to the Schengen agreement.. So without it, what will be in for us, the ordinary citizens to be EU citizens at all? The EU as it is, is all for the rich business elites and the establishment. We as citizens enjoy few benefits, the Erasmus program for example, the free movement to name a few.. If the Swiss are allowed to cherry-pick without facing the equal consequences, then others will follow suit..They have made a decision.. Great.. I do not see why we should even discuss what to do.. They want to control immigration and the free movement? They are out of the Agreement.. It must go both ways…
Just for saying, Democracy does not mean that you can do whatever you want in your country and nobody will react to it. This referendum (who won for faaaaar less than 80%) potentially goes against a fundamental treaty of EU – which has been signed by Swiss too. So I think it is quite obvious that EU is going to react to it, and still nobody is putting in doubt that Swiss are free to harm themselves.
The EU should accept the Swizz vote. Of that there is no doubt.
But since the swiss broke their part of the deal , the EU should cut off the free trade and any other support it gave to Switzerland – it is only fair.
You break the rules of a club, you no longer gain benefits from that club.
Freedom of thought and democracy are valid for the country in which you LIVE.
That is to say, the swiss can decide whatever the hell they want…INSIDE THEIR COUNTRY.
The EU however will not act as THEY want but as IT wants.
And it should act tough to show racists all over that this kind of international law breach will NOT be tolerated.
Then why is Greece kneeling to it Mr.Panos?….tho the title says a lot about the respect EU has to the sovereign will of countries,inside it or outside it….like Cyprus,that after they rejected Anan plan….now after they destroyed their economy,they bring it again thinking this time they will manage to pass it (ofc this is not only EU but UN also)….after it was rejected…i mean,what democrasy and what liberty does EU stand for exactly?…or when our prime minister Papandreou mentioned referandum for the momerantum of Greece he was thrown out of office (not that im a support of his,quite the opposite,but the incident shows a lot)….
Giannis…Greek politicians do not have the will or the balls to stand up to economic terror. fortunately for some and unfortunately for the majority of EU citizens the EU pushes a neo-liberal agenta that in order to be successful completely disregards citizens and democracy. sad really..but in regard to the swiss they are not in the EU so they can do whatever is best for their citizens as for the rest of us…well…what can you do.. stay poor and stupid EU! ;-)
why should they? and having border controls is not racist or is Australia racist for having border controls?.
If you sign an INTERNATIONAL treaty you need to abide by it.
Pick a book and study international law before you comment please.
Typical… When people, decent people, express their legitimate democratic opinion… They are lambasted as racists, populist, nutters, etc… What are you on the other side of the coin? “Marxist-loving communist Utopian idealists?” Shame on you Daniel Pintilie! Hell, lets just open up all the borders, let everyone in, have a huge party of sorts… These things (immigration) are often difficult and complex issues, and can’t be treated lightly, because they have huge consequences in the long run. There has to be debate, dialogue, etc… within a society. And when people express their democratic right, we can’t just label them with mediocre and pathetic insults. I’m glad the Swiss people decided in their own way what is good for them and good for them that they did, at least they still have their sovereignty, unlike many countries in the E.U..
I don’t know if they should vote again. But if they do, they should remember next time that their football national team, (which by the way is quite good) according to their will, should be composed from only 4 players!!! (the rest 7 should be kicked out of the country, in their opinion)
By that logic, Greece should appoint a bunch of Goldman Sachs bankers as their government, seeing as how Greece voted for a government of Samaras and Venizelos, who care nothing for ordinary Greeks and do everything that the IMF, bankers and the ECB want.
Well whose the racist, you just claimed that those 7 players are not Swiss, you cannot be a football player on the Swiss national team unless you are a Swiss citizen, so they are Swiss, and just to play your word game, do you really think that in all of Switzerland we cant find 7 guys to replace them? ,really?!?, you do understand that Switzerland made them as good as they are, or let me say it differently, if that Kosovo Albanian Shaqiri had remained in Kosovo he might be a great sheep farmer or maybe a taxi driver but not a internationally famous football player, it was Swiss sport, Swiss coaches, Swiss support & even Swiss food that made that possible, sure he had it in him, sure he worked hard for it but without a first world country like Switzerland to nurture this talent he would never have made it and thats a fact you simply cannot deny.
The Referendum was initiated by the extreme right party SVP / UDC. This is a big victory for the right extremismus in Switzerland after a long period of time in which they could not point too much. Even if this party has more voters then any other party, the direct democracy of Switzerland stopped them to apply extreme right politics.
Now the situation is changed. The extreme right groups feel very powerful. After the referendum there were right extreme manifestations on the streets.
There are many EU immigrants in Switzerland many very good educated and working in good position. That because with only 17% of the population attending University, one of the lowest percentages in Europe, Switzerland can not educate the human resources that it needs. Doctors and managers are mainly foreigners. The IT field is also dominated by foreigners.
Now the foreigners are scared. Some are leaving. It was the case last week of a professor in the University that decided to leave Switzerland because of too many problems he had from extremists (including destroying his car). International company are also thinking about leaving.
If the EU is not doing anything it will indirectly encourage the government of right extreme in the very center of Europe.
Look at the images on this post. Is it something from the history you remember when you see black, red, white political campaigns? In how many European countries would it be legal to make campaigns that explicitly promote “kicking foreigners in the ass” and that promote hate against other nationalities?
You work for the EU by any chance?
Others: note the casual dismissal of a position that the EU doesn’t agree with as ‘extreme right’ and how ‘most doctors are foreigners’ and ‘some are leaving’ (ie the usual scaremongering). Glenn Greenwald published about how secret services are manipulating online debates by sending in paid trolls and all that, so hence my question do you work for the EU?
Marcel, i think they need to up your medication..i see you are starting to babble innane conspiracy theories again.
Whether the left foot or the right foot brings a initiative/referendum is irrelevant, what matters is the content of it, Switzerland is a democratic country & a free country, we have a discussion, we talk about the pros and contra, we argue etc., the media also informes the people, and the government also says its oppinion, once we vote YES on a initiative/referendum then it is no longer a left or right initiative/referendum, it is the will of the people, or are you going to claim that the majority of Swiss are rightwing, leftwing etc., if thats your argument then you disualify yourself right there.
germans want to do the same
And if they do then all countries that have german companies should have a referendum to KICK THOSE COMPANIES OUT.
So it can be fair, you know…i mean those companies suck out wealth from those countries and it’s only fair to kick them out to preserve economy.
If the EU pressurises Switzerland to have another ‘corrective’ referendum then the EU is more a REGIME than a CLUB.
Should Europe delete suddenly all the treaties it has with Swiss? I think it is far better for both to try to rethink what is going on, and weight properly gain and losses.
It does kind of seem like the old Soviet Union, where ultimately opinions that deviated from the official narrative.party-line were also dismissed and you were required to ‘think it over’, expelled or sent for re-education.
The EU-ites want to create this monolithic ‘everyone the same’ and ‘everything harmonized’ and ‘no one allowed to deviate’ kind of regime. Just look at this Verhofstadt fella, and many more like him who used to claim to be democratic politicians but always argue ‘when Brussels wants it, it must be done’ regardless of the consequences.
The troika of uninformed but rabid anti-EU commenters: Paul, Tarquin and Marcel.
All three of you do not understand how the law works, how diplomacy works and how a club even works.
Please sign in to a club with tax – then stop paying taxes, then come back and tell me how many benefits from that club you still have.
And THEN comment, not before.
“Soviet Union” – you gotta be kidding me. You right-wing nut-jobs are all the same.
Whatever is not to your liking is “USSR” “Soviet union” or something “commie”.
Funny how not a SINGLE bad word about capitalism that nearly ruined the world.
It’s those “evul commies, be afraidddd”.
This isn’t America, we aren’t scared of socialists and communists. Those scare tactics don’t work on us, we are not idiots !
Again the right-wing nut-jobs on this site seem to FAIL TOTALLY to grasp the difference between a “club” and a “dictatorship”.
First of all to marcel because he is closest to this comment – stop talking about things you clearly are clueless about please – namely the word “soviet union”.
I lived under the soviet union and you are CLUE-LESS about it.
Second, a club is where you adhere to certain rules and gain benefits.
IF YOU BREAK the rules you DON’T GAIN benefits.
Switzerland wants to “play hard ball” ? Fine. Whatever they cut, we cut from our side. We need to take a hard stance against these racists to show them the EU will not deal with lunatics.
Where as you Limbidis are just totally uninformed
Free movement of people was never enshrined in EU law, free movement of workers was….essentially if you had a job to go to you could go anywhere, which in a free market is clearly common sense (do you know what that is?)
Changing workers to now include anybody has been crept in under subsequent treaties (a typical EU way of doing things) and its because of blinkered idiots like you who cant see past the blue starred flags and fat subsidies that things like this are allowed to happen
Another debate, more one sided europhiles trying to justify the fed agenda.
Normal decent hard working people being called racists/facists etc if you love your country ?
One person calls the eu a club, interesting . A club ,lets see.
Brussels is run by banksters at the ecb, yup thats a club.
Non democratic europhiles dismanteling democracy, another club.
Propaganda specialists, spindoctors being paid with tax dollars to further the europhile agenda, instead of using this money to build schools/hospitals etc, yup another club.
So far the euroextremist club is the only club i want no part of and i say to the swiss, BRAVO.
We in europe were ignored, pure and simple, we want to have our say , our day in court. I dont want what thier selling or in this case taking.
Europeans are being treated like doormats, theres no respect from the europhiles and they will pursue their agenda at all cost.
Whom are the real extremists?
Yes there are rules at the club, but when the president of the club moves into your house there must be exceptions.
Bad rules are meant to be broken!!!
All the wrong people in the right places, then disorganize ,dismantel and plunder, slowley ,bit by bit.
Its all about the money!!!
Someday Swiss will choke to death in their own … “patriotism”. The truth is there never was a grand expectation form mountaineers. Stay “clean” Switzerland.
When Obama,Merkel,Hollande etc. are tied up in ww3 with Putin the Chinese & the Muslims etc. we Swiss will sit back and wait till its over, then we will get out the Champagne and claim the new real estate.
Good idea. Only if they will stay in the eu. There should be negotiations on leave if you leave you take your bags and leave. Coubtries should take no priveledges with them on leaving the eu
I don’t really see the point of this article… mainly because that’s not going to happen… for the Swiss to access the market they have to follow the rules… just like everybody else…
Cherry picking at its best!
The failed EU experiment is falling apart at the seams so it won’t be long before every Nation has one :)
vive la liberté
Are you Kidding ? You have Opted-Out a whole nation like Greece, which is in a territorial “Quarantine”, except from economical, by the other “E.U.” countries, and your anxiety is for…Switzerland or the U.K. ….? Nice Joke …Keep “EuroUnifiing”…
They have it already
okay, the referendum of mass immigration of 2014 was a referendum that was one of the referendum with a very very small majority, and we are talking here about a 50,3 against 49,7% , but also with a Ständemehr similary showing a divide between French speaking and German speaking parts. If one would repeat this kind of vote, the outcome might be different or similar. The underlying “problem” now is that Swiss people obviously voted against an international treaty with the EU who was signed by its government which has caused the re-negotiations now. The Swiss government would not like to renegotiate all EU agreements, but just realize the referendum. So far, so good, but actually the EU cannot take any other position than to hold up the freedom of movement which is one of the core pillars of the Union. If the Swiss government decides now to fulfill the will of the 50,3%, than it will consequentially mean that the freedom of free movement is no longer valid for EU citizens towards Switzerland or just within the quota, but the EU will also have to reduce the rights of movement of Swiss in the EU or by finding a similar solution which is again not in the interest of Swiss people (as a side note, the popular right in Switzerland actually by times claims the supremacy of Swiss law over any international law which contradicts international law and would make international contracts by far more difficult if not impossible, especially when it comes to human rights courts and so far as undermining trust among states).
Apart from the background, I do not see how the Brexit changes it. Negotiations with Great Britain are separate and in my view the EU should not give up freedom of movement, so if a third country wants to restrain immigration contradicting contracts with the EU, other positive effects for that country are to be removed at the same time, that would be just fair. And as everyone want to have the best things, one should recall that freedom of movement is one of the best things and borders and national states something of the past.
Switzerland is a free country and a real democracy that has never been a EU or eurozone country and is no Schengen partner, what do you mean by “given an opt-out” ? In my opinion we should all take our opt-out, the private banks´created money euro is is a major problem that drains out our economies through the debt system croockery.
Non only UK will want it but all countries.
So stupid request