Expatica news

‘It’s an anti-Europe initiative in disguise’

To ensure jobs in Switzerland, relations with the European Union are of central importance, says parliamentarian Daniela Schneeberger. Maintaining the bilateral accords will ensure orderly relations with the EU and thus prosperity for the people of Switzerland, she believes.

The initiative to limit immigration from the EU proposes that Switzerland renegotiate free movement of people – and thus also pull out of the other six bilateral accords. It’s an anti-Europe initiative in disguise. This could be fatal particularly in view of a looming recession we are currently facing due to the coronavirus crisis.

Switzerland is a prosperous country. Our prosperity is due not just to our own innovation and hard work, but also to our relations with the wider world and an open labour market. We earn every second franc from our access to the outside world, particularly the EU member countries.

It is obvious that Switzerland as a small country in the middle of Europe needs a good, well-organised relationship with the EU. The coronavirus crisis has shown the consequences closed borders can have. Cross-border travel is something on which numerous industries and businesses here depend for their survival, ensuring that they can sell their products and get them to their customers.

Switzerland has concluded a set of bilateral accords with the EU [more than 20 years ago] – seven of them in total – including the free movement of people agreement. If Switzerland withdraws from one of these accords, it withdraws from all of them – that is how the framework is structured.

Advantages for Switzerland

It is beyond dispute that these bilateral agreements with the EU bring us many advantages. Thanks to them the Swiss economy experienced strong growth in the past few years, and that has meant more jobs and more prosperity for us all.

Free movement of people has not had a negative effect on Switzerland’s labour market. We have one of the lowest levels of unemployment, the highest pay rates and the strongest purchasing power in Europe.

These orderly relations, which depend on the current bilateral agreements, will also help us to cope better with the coronavirus-based recession due to our guaranteed access to the EU.

The initiative to limit immigration, if accepted, would in fact amount to an initiative to withdraw from normal relations with the EU, because it would mean not just the end of free movement of people on both sides; it would mean the end of the whole negotiated package.

For Switzerland, that would mean losing EU market access. Small and medium-sized companies in Switzerland have an important role as cross-border suppliers – they depend on the EU.

Swiss in the EU benefit too

Swiss citizens in the EU also benefit from the free movement of people. Almost 800,000 Swiss live abroad, more than 60% in Europe, mainly France, Germany and Italy. About 500,000 Swiss live and work in the EU and thus benefit from the free movement of people.

The end of free movement would hit these people directly, because without this regulation, access to the labour market would dry up. Swiss could not just go and work in another European country – for the long or short term.

Keeping intact our relationship with the EU in the form of the bilateral agreements is essential for the economy and our prosperity. There is no good reason to throw the whole package overboard now. The initiative to limit immigration needs to be rejected, especially given the current coronavirus crisis, which goes to show just how important working together with our neighbours and with Europe is.

Translated from German by Terence MacNamee

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.

Translated from German by Terence MacNamee