Swiss Voters Clearly Reject Curbs on EU Immigration

  • Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-wing party’s attempt to scrap a pact allowing the free movement of people from the European Union, opting for stability amid the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  •  Results showed that 61.7% voted against the motion, versus 38.3% who turned out in support. 
  • Referendum had been initiated by the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which said that 
  • current regulations allow for an average of 75,000 EU citizens per year to enter, 
  • Leading to overpopulation, rising housing costs and a strained welfare system. 
  • The government had opposed the initiative.

‘Excessive immigration’

  • The SVP, which has built its platform on condemning EU influence within Switzerland, has warned that the country is facing “uncontrolled and excessive immigration.”
  • The party called for the free movement of people between Switzerland and EU countries to be scrapped.
  • The initiative, voted on as part of the country’s system of direct democracy, had called for Switzerland to revise its constitution to ensure it can autonomously decide on immigration policy. 
  • The move, dubbed Swexit, saw declining support ahead of the vote. 

Strained Swiss-EU relations

  • The referendum’s outcome means the government will likely push forward talks with the EU on a framework agreement to regulate this and other bilateral issues.
  • Conservatives fear that a deal would gradually subject the country to legislation from Brussels.
  • Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of the bloc’s Single Market through several bilateral treaties, which allow for the free movement of people between the country and the 27 member states.
  • A number of other issues were also on the ballot Sunday, including introducing paid paternity leave, easing restrictions on shooting wolves, the acquisition of fighter jets and increasing tax breaks for child care.
  • More than 60% of voters backed the plan to give new fathers two weeks’ paid leave after the birth of their child — 
  • a significant change in a country that still lags behind much of Europe when it comes to parental leave. 
  • But voters opposed increasing tax breaks for child care.