Ensure the Swiss model

by Dr iur Marianne WŁthrich

Direct democracy and the citizens’ political rights, federalism and municipal autonomy, everlasting armed neutrality and related to it the commitment to good offices and humanitarian aid – the cornerstones of the Swiss model are an example and hope for many people around the world. However, they do not remain all by themselves: each Swiss citizen carries the responsibility for maintaining the cornerstones of our state model. Some current issues pending in the Swiss Federal State are to be taken up here.

A currently pressing issue is the conflict between direct democracy and the contracts of Switzerland with the EU. There is not much to be said on this topic here, because there is already a large discussion in all Swiss and many foreign media. Only a basic consideration obtrudes itself.

Direct democracy and submission to foreign powers are like fire and water

The majority in the National Council and Council of States says it clearly: We are not ready to implement the article of the Constitution controlling mass immigration with an appropriate law. We are not willing to renegotiate the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) with the EU, if necessary.
Perhaps it is actually not such a bad thing that the yea-men come out in the open. Thus, they force every citizen to ask the basic question concretely: What is the future I want for Switzerland? If the Parliament today refuses to execute the will of the people simply because one of the over 100 bilateral treaties with the EU is opposed to a new Swiss regulation – how will it be then, if Switzerland would join the EU more closely? If we were to agree to a framework agreement of institutional issues and to directly submit us under the case-law of the European Court of Justice – how much of our direct democratic state order would then be left? Even the EU Member States with representative democracy have been complaining for years that their national Parliaments and even more the Parliaments of the individual federal constituent states (for example in Germany or Austria) hardly have to advise and decide anything, because increasingly things are done in Brussels centrally …
Farewell to direct democracy? Or tackle the thing in the cantons themselves, like the Ticino electorate showed us with the popular initiative “prima i nostri!”1, in accordance with the Federal Constitution. Hopefully, the Ticino can resist against federal Berne when it comes to ensuring of its new Constitution article. Other cantons are happy to join in.
With regard to the federal level: there is only one answer to the adverse to democracy and weak-breasted proposals on migration which the Federal Council intends to submit to the people to vote: For the last time, no!2 Concerning the rejectionist attitude of the Parliament it is to state that we citizens remember every single name of “representatives”, representing rather the EU than us – the next elections will come for sure … We will stop the coup against the sovereign!

The control of the administration undermines federalism and municipal autonomy

In the wake of globalisation and EU integration, our authorities in the Confederation and the cantons disobey more and more the reasonable democratically backed and thrift-promoting basic rules in the Federal State (sovereignty of the cantons, municipal autonomy, and subsidiarity principle).
We reported about the annihilation of constitutional school sovereignty of the cantons by the high-handed actions of the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) again and again. There are also mere administrative departments such as the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) or the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), running out of control for years with their human and financial effort and constantly adding new tasks “networked” (i.e. with the management teams of the EU or OECD) to generate an increasing number of well-paid jobs. For this purpose, they incite individual members of Parliament, (in the National Council and Council of States) to push through international agreements in the National Council and Council of States, to impose centralised regulations of the Federation or generous loans. Victims are – in addition to the taxpayers – the federal structure of Switzerland and the direct democratic decision-making rights of the citizens.

Example FOEN: New regional policy – centralist regime of the administration

The FOEN covers 492 jobs and has a budget of roughly 1.5 billion Swiss francs at the disposal for the year 2016.3
A proud budget for a mere Federal Office – if you consider, for example, that for some parliamentarians 5 billion a year are too much for the entire national defence! Among the money streams that flow through the FOEN belong approximately 3 billion Swiss francs, which were diverted from the “Investment aid fund in mountainous regions” (IHG) and redirected in the so-called “New Regional Policy” (NRP). The IHG was an economical and well-functioning facility tailored to the Swiss State understanding, which forgave loans for infrastructure projects in the mountain area. They were paid back to almost 100 percent and could be used again for new projects.
This proven facility was rebuilt 10 years ago to a regional development fund modelled on the EU. The objective of the EU regional policy is especially the dissolution of borders and nation States in favour of the expansion of the centralised EU State unit. “Both as regards to the goals and the objective and spatial usage criteria the new regional policy NRP corresponds to [...] the main guideline of the cohesion and structural policy of the European Union”, so the Federal Council in its message of 16 November 2005.4 An absurd comparison: Neither is Switzerland a multi-state construct that must support the internal cohesion to keep from falling apart nor has it a wealth gap as the EU at that time between Eastern and Western European States. The majority of the Parliament approved the Federal Act on regional policy and by that the EU concept which entered into force on 1 January 2008. This law is the basis for today’s lavish distribution of taxpayer’s money with no hope of a return, as in the EU.
This is the case, for example, for so-called “Regional Nature Parks” (RNPs), which are set up under the direction of the FOEN, with the aim of placing the territories of the involved communities under the control of a “professional” local control centre. This in turn ensures the implementation of the so-called “habit change” according to EU regional policy, i.e. the establishment of connected habitats of animals and plants at the expense of human habitats. In order agitate without being disturbed, the Federal Council resp. the FOEN produced a “Parks Ordinance” (ParkO). This stipulates a park charter with a 10-year suspension of the right of termination.5 With the signing of the charter, the participating municipalities “make their territory available for the park perimeter”.6 This means, they give up their communal autonomy and the citizens’ direct democratic decision-making rights for ten years.
As happened this autumn at the “Regional Nature Park of Schaffhausen”, the first cross-border Swiss nature park, which unfortunately will be able to come into being despite the gripping counter-defence of a no-committee. The population was flattened with an immense propaganda machine, because finally the profitable jobs of the “professionals” in the office were at stake. Municipalities that in the last couple of years had voted twice against the adhesion in the communal assembly, were urged with financial lures to vote for a third time. This happened via lies (the nature park would bring no restrictions, the product label would be free of charge, etc.) and by threats (they would no more be able to sell their products without park-label). Unfortunately, only a few municipalities withstood this massive pressure.

In contrast, on 27 November 2016, 8 out of 17 Ticino and Grisons communes said no at the ballot box to the Parc Adula, a so-called “second national park” with a planned gigantic area of more than 1,200 square kilometres. Thus it has failed because 13 municipalities should have agreed at least. For a long time, Switzerland has a beautiful national park, a second – and above all such one! – we do not need. This is, by the way, the eighth park, which has been buried by the population.
We think that the majority of us Swiss citizens has kept a healthy sense of the essential importance of our small-scale federal structures – in spite of all attempts to bend our country, its weatherproof facilities and the strong rights of the population into a bad direction. Precisely because we are accustomed to the fact that the state is a matter of the citizens, repeatedly many people cooperate despite adversities and oppose developments that do not fit to our country.


Considerations on the duties of neutral Switzerland


At the NATO headquarters in the USA (Norfolk, Virginia) a Swiss liaison officer is deployed, we get to know in the daily press. “There, the NATO states are planning the forces of the future. [...] The members are trying to figure out what NATO must and can do in 20 years.” For example, how so-called “peacekeeping operations” will look like (Ostschweiz am Sonntag from 11.12.2016).

Yes, you did not misread: Switzerland is not only acting against the neutrality imperative with deployments of the Swiss army in NATO manoeuvres,7 but also participates in planning the NATO forces of the future – even though it is not a member of NATO! For the future planning of the Swiss national defence in turn cuts corners: the air force is slowly decreasing in age, and the number of members of the army has been reduced for years, because Switzerland is said to be unable to afford its equipment and training.

Taking care of the Swiss model – this also includes to return to the self-imposed duty of Switzerland in the world. As long as we have one foot in NATO, we are not credible as neutral mediators. The Good Offices, humanitarian aid and development aid via the ICRC and other organisations, disaster relief and the granting of asylum to politically persecuted people – these is the operating range of neutral Switzerland. This also includes the ability to defend one’s own country. This does not go with army operations under the command of NATO, whether they are manoeuvres in Eastern Europe or plans at the NATO headquarters. With the withdrawal from “Partnership for Peace (PfP)”, Switzerland regained its credibility as a neutral mediator and would still again have sufficient resources to be able to afford a well-equipped defence army.     •

1     cf. Current Concerns, No 23 from 22.10.2016

2     Detailed information on the content will follow.

3     www.bafu.admin.ch/org/09606/index.html?lang=en#sprungmarke0_38

4     05.080 Embassy Message on the New Regional Policy (NRP)  from 16 November 2005, p. 41

5     Ordinance on Parks of National Importance from 7 November 2007, Art. 26 (3)
6     Regional Nature Park Schaffhausen. Management plan for operation, p. 128
7     cf. “Swiss Army – Stop marching and return to the Constitutional order!” In: Current Concerns, No 8 from 19 April 2016