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The Limitation Initiative - Where does Switzerland want to go?

Published: 23 August 2020

In my view, the vote on the Limitation Initiative (in German: Begrenzungsinitiative) or the Cancellation Initiative on 27 September 2020 will be groundbreaking for Switzerland and its position in Europe. This fact and the results of the survey among my subscribers encouraged me to make a video about the limitation initiative. Personally, Switzerland is very close to my heart and I love living here. I think the Swiss special path in Europe is a great thing and I would like to put it dramatically at risk.

In the following you will find the content of the video also in text form. More entertaining and richer in images is of course the video (German language with English subtitles).

So far you have seen rather entertaining videos about Switzerland on my channel, this time I want to focus on a serious topic. The vote on the limitation initiative on 27 September is the most important referendum of the year and will, in my view, be groundbreaking for Switzerland and its position in Europe. In the following video you will learn about the background to the Limitation Initiative, what exactly the initiative demands, what problems will arise from it, what my thoughts on it are and what the forecasts are. I am aware that the video is very subjective, will probably polarise and not everyone shares my opinion on it. That is absolutely fine. But I would ask you to be fair and respectful to each other in your comments.

Background and content of the initiative

After the original voting date of 17 May 2020 was cancelled due to corona conditions, Switzerland will now decide on its future and its status in Europe on 27 September 2020. But what exactly does this initiative require and how did it come about? After the required 100,000 signatures had been collected, the popular initiative was submitted on 31 August 2018 by the SVP and the organisation "Action for an independent and neutral Switzerland" in Berne. This initiative is a direct consequence of the mass immigration initiative of 2014, which was also launched by the SVP. Despite forecasts to the contrary, this popular initiative was accepted by a very narrow margin of 50.3%. However, the mass immigration initiative had a significant problem. It could not be implemented without violating the law. The quotas demanded by the initiative were not compatible with the EU's treaty on the free movement of persons, and it was already foreseeable that the EU would not agree to renegotiate them. For this reason, the Swiss government decided to implement the initiative in a much softened version and to address a problem that is of concern to the population in connection with immigration. Since 1 June 2018, the obligation to register for employment has therefore been in force in Switzerland, colloquially known as the national priority light. That the supporters of the mass immigration initiative are not enthusiastic about the final implementation of the initiative was just as foreseeable and understandable. But I still don't understand why the initiators launched an initiative that could never be implemented in this way and then complained about it afterwards. As a reaction to the implementation, the new popular initiative "For moderate immigration", known in German as "Begrenzungsinitiative", was therefore launched. This now calls for the free movement of persons to be taken back into their own hands, renegotiated with the EU and, if this is not achieved within 12 months, terminated. In addition, the initiative prohibits in the future to enter into international law treaties which grant the free movement of persons.

What are the problems encountered in adopting the initiative?

As in 2014, I do not believe that the EU will renegotiate the free movement of persons, which is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union. According to the text of the initiative, denouncing the free movement of persons would therefore be the consequence. What the initiators like to keep quiet about is that the free movement of persons cannot be terminated on its own, but only in the package with all other treaties from the "Bilateral I" package. Which, after the referendum in 2000, were accepted by the Swiss people with a two-thirds majority. The Bilaterals I consist of 7 individual agreements and contain mainly rules on the economy, agriculture, transport, research and access to the European internal market. These agreements enable Switzerland to take a special path with the EU without completely relinquishing its independence, but still gaining full access to the EU's economic area. Therefore, these treaties were signed only as a package. If one is terminated, all the other treaties in this package will also be terminated. This could become a real problem, especially for companies that generate revenue through exports or depend on supplies from the EU. 60% of Switzerland's trade volume is imports and exports with EU countries. Conversely, Switzerland's share of the EU's trade volume is only slightly more than 6%. With this comparison I would just like to show how important the trade agreements from Bilateral Agreements I are for Switzerland and how poor its negotiating position is. Added to this is the fact that, without free movement of persons, Swiss companies have no or at least limited access to the EU market for skilled workers. Particularly in the areas of health and IT, Switzerland is dependent on good specialists from abroad. If the initiative were to be adopted, the Swiss economy, which has been hit by Corona, would be even more severely affected. Corona has also shown us how important the healthcare system with well-trained staff is. What the initiators also like to conceal is the fact that in 2004, together with the free movement of persons, the accompanying measures were introduced. They contain clear rules for work carried out in Switzerland. The accompanying measures thus safeguard the wage level and working conditions of all workers. Wage dumping and undeclared work have been shown to have declined since then. Without accompanying measures, the progress already made would be at stake.

My personal thoughts on this

All these points concern the economy and prosperity. But it is not only that. The free movement of persons gives us all a great deal of freedom. Be it when travelling, when choosing a job, a place of residence, studying or in a partnership. Nowadays there are many cross-border partnerships, which become much more complicated without the free movement of persons. At present, within the Schengen area, it is sufficient to look for a job in the partner's area and to be able to move in together without having to get married immediately.

Thanks to the Bilateral Agreements, we in Switzerland have a certain degree of independence without isolating ourselves and yet still being an important part of Europe. For me, Switzerland has always stood for great innovative strength, and I see this in great danger if we are isolated and without international exchange. All those who want to vote yes should consider carefully whether they really want an isolated solution. In the worst case, it could even lead to Switzerland having to give up its special path and become a permanent member of the EU. I do not think this is desirable either.

Half a million Swiss abroad live in the EU area. I find this figure very impressive and it also shows me personally that the free movement of persons is not a one-sided affair. If the free movement of persons were terminated, the residence status of many Swiss abroad would no longer be regulated and would also have to be renegotiated. The number of naturalisations would therefore probably increase massively both abroad and in Switzerland. For many emigrants this would be the only measure they could take to maintain their status. Is this the right motivation for obtaining citizenship?

The forecasts and conclusion

Now you are probably wondering what the current forecasts for this initiative are. At the beginning of June, a representative survey by Gfs Bern showed that 29 per cent of those surveyed would vote yes and 69 per cent of those surveyed would vote no. Only 2 percent were undecided in this survey. So the opinions seem to have been made.

Forecasts for 2014 were also very optimistic and all signs were pointing to rejection of the initiative. Nevertheless, things have turned out differently. At that time it was fortunate that the wording of the initiative was not feasible. This time things would be different. I firmly believe that a large proportion of the Swiss people are in favour of the free movement of persons and the Swiss special path. Only the proportion of voters will decide what the result will be on 27 September. I therefore call on all Swiss citizens and Swiss abroad to cast their votes in this election. I count on you.

Sources (German):

The Mass Immigration Initiative in words:

All information about the obligation to register a job:

The text of the Limitation Initiative:

Bilaterale I:

Trade partner of Switzerland:

Reduction of undeclared work and wage dumping:

Survey results Limitation initiative:

More and more Britons are becoming naturalised: 

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