The Referendum Topics of November 29.

On Sunday November 29th the citizens of Switzerland are once more called to take part in the direct democracy system by voting on the following initiatives:

On a national level two initiatives have been put forward:

Für verantwortungsvolle Unternehmen – zum Schutz von Mensch und Umwelt – For responsible companies – to protect human rights and the environment.

This initiative is causing a lot of debate and surveys have put this referendum at a near 50/50 on whether it will be passed or not. The premise is simple, Swiss companies that operate abroad should do so without breaking international rules with regards to human rights nor the environment (in particular child labour and polution of rivers). Any company caught breaking these rules will be brought to court in Switzerland and no longer in the country where the rules were broken. This new law would also apply to any of the company’s onsite subsidiaries and suppliers.

The government believes that this initiative is going too far and will lead to the loss of jobs as companies will pull out of the countries and hurt the local economy. It has put forward a counter-proposal that will automatically be put into place if this one is voted down by the people. Parliament has approved the indirect counter-proposal to the initiative, which also introduces new reporting and due diligence obligations. Any failures to comply would lead to fines being imposed (not exceeding CHF 100 000.-), but the companies would have their cases heard in the country where the incident took place and be charged according to local laws.

Für ein Verbot der Finanzierung von Kriegsmaterialproduzenten – For a ban on the financing of producers of war materials.

Like most other countries, Switzerland is involved in the arms industry. Swiss companies produce weapons or parts for weapons, while Swiss investors finance war material manufacturers both here and abroad. In Switzerland, war material is subject to strict regulations, and a licence is required to manufacture and export it. Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines are banned: they may neither be manufactured nor traded, it is also illegal to fund the production of such weapons.

The initiative proponents believe that this ban on financing does not go far enough. It wants to make it illegal to finance any form of war material. The ban will also make it illegal to hold shares in such companies or to invest in funds that contain their shares. The ban would affect the Swiss National Bank, foundations, the state old age and invalidity pension schemes and other pension funds.

The government is asking people to vote against this initiative arguing that the economic effects would be felt not only by arms manufacturers, but also by their suppliers, which include many small and medium-sized businesses based in Switzerland.

Locally we are being asked to vote on a cantonal and a local topic.

Luzerner Kulturlandschaft Initiatives – Lucerne’s cultural landscape initiatives

A multi-party committee, to which nature and landscape protection organizations also belong, submitted two popular initiatives under the title “Lucerne Cultural Landscape”. One of them is intended to amend the cantonal constitution (verfassungsinitiative 1), the other the planning and building law (gesetztinitiative 2.a) . The aim of both initiatives is to stop the urban sprawl of the Lucerne landscape and to preserve valuable land for agriculture, habitats for nature and beautiful landscapes and settlements for future generations. With these initiatives the initiators want to achieve a more economical use of the land and contain urban sprawl. Arguing that the equivalent of 125 football fields are being built on every year in the canton of Lucerne, they want to put a stop to the rezoning from agricultural to buildable land.

The majority of the cantonal council rejected the two popular initiatives arguing that these initiatives are going too far and would lead to absurd situations such as a farmer not being able to build a new stable or a town not being able to build in its centre and having to build on the outer perimeters instead. However, since the Cantonal Council basically shares the objectives of the initiators, it decided on a counter-proposal (Gegenentwurf 2.b) to the legislative initiative, which will implement their concerns as far as possible in the Planning and Building Law.

To make voting even more complicated they added an option where should both 2a and 2b be accepted by a majority the voters should choose which one of the two should be implemented.

Finally locally: Teilrevision der Bau- und Zonenordnung Stadtteil Luzern – Partial revision of the building and zoning regulations for the district of Lucerne

The building and zoning regulations (BZO) for the Lucerne district were subject to a general revision in 2013. Due to court decisions, appeal procedures and new higher-level legal requirements and referendums, it must now be revised. The City Council and the Grand City Council would like to make 21 adjustments to the BZO and thus implement concerns of high public interest.

The City of Lucerne is obliged to increase the proportion of public housing to 16 percent. In order to achieve this goal, the present partial revision proposes various adjustments that are necessary to realize planned projects.

But one project is putting a spanner in the works. Originally, the Reformed Church should have been obligated to provide non-profit dwellings in return for the rezoning of their property in the Würzenbachmatte. In the context of the objection hearing between the Reformed Church and the city council this demand was dropped.

Because this amendment was discussed very controversially in the Grand City Council, parliament decided to have the rezoning of the Würzenbachmatte, including the obligation to pay low rents, voted on separately and independently of the other amendments.

The voters can therefore comment on two voting questions: on the partial revision of the BZO excluding Würzenbachmatte and separately on the adjustment of the BZO for the Würzenbachmatte property.

You can find all the details to the 21 changes here.

We will keep you updated on the results on Sunday.

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