The Swiss overwhelmingly said no to restricting immigration to European Union (EU) nationals, much to the relief of business circles, and voted in favor of a two-week paternity leave when young fathers were only allowed a day or two until now.
Voters rejected by 61.7% the popular initiative launched by the populist right of the Central Democratic Union (UDC), the country’s largest party, which denounces “Uncontrolled and disproportionate immigration” and considers jobs threatened by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) signed in 1999 with the EU. A result all the more telling as the participation rate was very high, around 59%.
The Presidents of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and of the Council, Charles Michel, welcomed the Swiss vote on Sunday. This one “Validates one of the central pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, live and work in Switzerland and in the European Union”said Ursula von der Leyen in a video message posted to Twitter. “I welcome this result. I see this as a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship “, she added.
“Today is a great day for relations between the European Union and Switzerland”, greeted Charles Michel on Twitter. “The Swiss have spoken and sent a clear message: we have a great future ahead of us. “
If the polls suggested that the SVP’s lone rider was doomed to failure, the result was nonetheless the most anticipated among a whole series of subjects on which the Swiss had to vote on Sunday, such as the tradition of voting wants it.
“Switzerland is sending a strong signal to Europe today”
All other parties and business circles were strongly in favor of open borders with a European Union which is Switzerland’s most important trading partner. And the Swiss border regions depend heavily on labor coming from neighboring countries in the tens of thousands every day.
However, this “yes” does not mean that relations with the EU are cloudless. For several years, Brussels has wanted to conclude an institutional framework agreement with Bern to simplify bilateral relations. This agreement is far from unanimous, on the left and on the right. UDC hears “To make sure that we do not enter the European Union little by little”, said Céline Amaudruz, one of the party officials on the public channel RTS.
Conversely, the leader of the Socialist parliamentary group in parliament, Roger Nordmann, believes that the Swiss have signaled their attachment to bilateral relations, which have been functioning well for twenty years. “Switzerland is sending a strong signal to Europe today”, he told RTS.
Only six years ago, the Swiss had approved, with a very narrow majority but to the surprise of the experts, a first popular initiative of the UDC reintroducing quotas of migrants, in particular Europeans. Fearing retaliation from the EU, Berne had softened the initiative’s implementing text.
In 1992, the Swiss also voted no to their country’s entry into the European Economic Area, an agreement signed by the member states of the European Community, the ancestor of the EU, and the member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Since then, Bern and Brussels have signed several bilateral agreements. A first package of seven agreements, including the ALCP, was validated by the Swiss people in 2000 by 67.2% of the votes.
Two weeks paternity leave
The large yes (60.3%) in the referendum on paternity leave allows Switzerland to catch up a little of its delay against its peers in Europe. “Paternity leave finally has more time than a move”, said Adrian Wüthrich, member of the paternity leave committee.
If, since 2005, the law grants working mothers fourteen weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child, fathers, on the other hand, were only entitled to one or two days. And nothing for the independents. “This result shows that society has changed and that the time has passed for a model where women must stay at home”, underlines Philippe Gnaegi, director of Pro Familia, a group of family organizations, cited by the ATS agency.
After countless attempts, the Federal Parliament adopted a two-week paternity leave in September 2019. It remained for the Swiss to vote by referendum.
The Swiss, on the other hand, rejected by 51.9% a revision of the hunting law passed by the Parliament in the face of the increase in the number of wolves, according to the latest projection of the polling institute gfs.bern. The cantons can currently authorize firing when a wolf causes significant damage, but the revision would have made it possible to act in a preventive manner.