connect, grow & thrive.

Upcoming referendums – The “Begrenzungsinitiative” explained

On the 27th of September the Swiss population will be called back to the urns to vote on a series of initiatives. The one that is creating the most headlines is the “Begrenzungsinitiative”: the “moderate immigration”,initiative launched by the SVP.

The “Schweizerische Volks Partei” is the right wing party (although they like to refer to themselves as centrist) and a major focus of its politics is closing borders to foreigners. This initiative is calling for the Freedom of Movement of Persons (from the EU) to be stopped. They are arguing that foreigners are behind every ill in this country. Cities growing uncontrollably, more pressure on infrastructures, destruction of the environment, insecurity, crime etc.; according to them all of this can be traced back to too many foreigners in the country.

The Freedom of Movement of Persons act allows EU citizens to travel, work and study in Switzerland and for Swiss citizens to do the same in Europe. It is one of seven bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, the package of agreements is known as the Bilaterals I.

It is erroneous to claim that anyone can come and live here, only those who have a valid work permit, are setting up their own company or have enough personal capital to prove that they can live here are allowed to stay in Switzerland.

Should the initiative be accepted, Switzerland would then have 12 months to renegotiate their deal with Europe, if this is not achieved then all seven bilateral agreements will be cancelled. In other words this is the forerunner to a Swiss Brexit (Swissxit?).

The government and the national parliament voted against this motion, arguing that this would be putting Switzerland in a very precarious situation both economically and strategically and isolating it from its closest neighbours and allies.

Of note, the initiative also prohibits Switzerland from entering into any new international agreements that would grant freedom of movement to foreign citizens.

This is the SVP’s third attempt at putting an end to the freedom of movement of people in Switzerland. They are putting a lot of money into their campaign and hoping to win voters’ hearts by going for a populist sentiment and stoking the fear of the immigrant in people’s hearts…. sound familiar?

The government is urging people to vote against this initiative.

We will write about the other initiatives in the coming days.

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Livingin organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.