Swiss traditions must not be overgrown by EU law

A lesson from the parliament’s autumn session

by Dr iur Marianne WŁthrich

What an “Institutional Framework Agreement”– meaning Switzerland’s subordination under the law and jurisdiction of the EU – would mean, can be seen at the moment by the example of the EU Parliament’s and the EU Council’s tightening of the EU-Firearms-Directive. Since the author is not a weapons expert, here are a few words concerning the content of the directive: in spring 2017, in response to the terrorist attacks of 2015 in Paris, EU leaders severely restricted the private possession of firearms, especially of army weapons. Now the Member States have 15 (!) months to implement the amended directive. Exceptions have at least been contended successfully by hunters, sports shooters, collectors of arms and museums in many countries.1

With approximately 175,000 members, the Swiss Shooting Association (SSV) is the third largest sports federation in Switzerland and represents around 1,300 local
associations. (picture Keystone)

This EU-Firearms-Directive was discussed in March 2017 in the Swiss National Council and in the current autumn session in the Council of States. A motion out of the National Council required the Federal Council to join forces with EU states and to resist against a tightening of the Swiss Arms Law.2
You may now ask yourself what Switzerland has to do with a Firearms-Directive from Brussels. Why do we have to defend ourselves against the impending abolition of the tradition of our Shooting Associations? I had exactly the same questions, too.
“Further development of the

Schengen Acquis”: What does that mean in concrete terms?

In March, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga explained this to the National Council and thus also to us as citizens: “The adaptation of the EU-Firearms-Directive is a further development of the Schengen acquis, and you know that the association with Schengen/Dublin was subject to a referendum, so it is a mission there, that we are a taking part in Schengen/Dublin. It was very well known at the time what we got involved with, which was intensely discussed then, that Switzerland is in principle obliged to take on further developments within the framework of the Schengen acquis and to incorporate it into national law. So, we have to implement this in national law, it is not an automatic takeover. “ [emphasis added mw.]3
Did we exactly know at that time what Switzerland got involved with Schengen/Dublin? I didn’t know. Who could have known 12 years ago which new decrees would be issued in Brussels in the future? That’s why I voted no on 5 June 2005.
In the brochure “Schengen/Dublin – in brief”4, the interested reader learns on 19 pages what is included in this agreement, which governs “international cooperation in the field of internal security and asylum”. For example, “Minimum rules for combating trade of firearms and drugs”, with an appropriate adaptation of the Swiss weapons legislation, “without questioning the areas of hunting, shooting associations and arms collecting” (p. 14; emphasis added mw.). I repeat my question: Did you know exactly what Schengen/Dublin would mean for the Swiss rule of law and direct democracy in the future? Did Mrs Sommaruga know exactly at that time?

An emasculated parliament without a right of decision

This is what the Swiss legislation would look like after an Institutional Framework Agreement with Brussels became valid: the National Council discusses on 15 March 2017 the Motion 16.3719, which merely asks the Federal Council to “act in the interest of the people in favour of a liberal and free weapons law that corresponds with our Swiss traditions”. The author of the motion can even refer to a referendum, namely the clear rejection of the People’s initiative “For the protection against armed violence”, which was rejected by the Swiss people on 13 February 2011 with 56.3% no votes. The adoption of that initiative would have meant that the Swiss soldiers would no longer have been allowed to keep their infantry rifle at home; the majority of the voting people didn’t agree on that.
On 15 March of this year, Mrs Sommaruga also assured that she had advocated in the spirit of the motion “to ensure that the continuation of the Swiss tradition of the shooting sports associations is possible. As you know, sports shooters often use their former army weapon. Switzerland has therefore been committed to ensuring that the infantry rifle can continue to be kept when the army service is terminated. We have achieved this goal”. [emphasis added mw. And note: So, is the Federal Council able to achieve something in Brussels from time to time? We have to remember this for coming confrontations!] That is why the National Council might calmly agree to the motion, because the Federal Council had done everything possible in Brussels anyway; however, the EU directive would still need to be transposed into national law. The National Council cannot be put off until a later draft of this act of transposition, but agrees to the motion with 118 Yes against 58 No with 3 abstentions.5
The Council of States, on the other hand, rejected the motion with 29 to 13 votes and 2 abstentions on 11 September 2017, after Federal Councillor Sommaruga declared: “Whether you decide to reject or to accept – the most important thing is that we agree on the content. Whether you accept or reject now leads to no difference in the direction to proceed.”
This is almost as much the case as in the largely disempowered parliaments of the EU Member States: whether the National Council or the Council of States say yes or no, does not matter. After all, Mrs Federal Councillor tells you “the direction to proceed”: “We will implement this directive, because otherwise the Schengen/Dublin would be automatically terminated […]. We do not want that at all.” By the way, the attentive citizen also learns that the decision has long since been taken: The Federal Council has already “made it clear to the EU that we will implement the directive. As we must do so within thirty days.”6
I do recommend to our citizens and to the members of the parliament as elected by us: it is bad enough if there are already such meaningless Council debates in Berne today as a result of the integration into the EU. If we want the Swiss Parliament to be able to decide in the future, we must not accept an “institutional framework agreement” according to the blessings of Brussels!     •

1     cf. New bans. EU Parliament tightens weapons law – open dispute at press conference. Spiegel online from 14.3.2017
2     16.3719 Motion Salzmann Werner. We will not be disarmed by the EU!
3     16.3719 Motion Salzmann Werner. National Council debate from 15.3.2017
4     2nd Issue 2011. https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/eda/de/documents/publications/EuropaeischeAngelegenheiten/Schengen_de.pdf 
5     16.3719 Motion Salzmann Werner. National Council debate from 15.3.2017
6     16.3719 Motion Salzmann Werner. Council of States debate from 11.9.2017

Preservation of national traditions? Or not rather stronger control over citizens?

“With regard to the adaptation of the new weapons firearms-directive, however, the needs of the traditionally established shooting system sport and the shooters and hunters must also be taken into account. We have recently adapted and substantially sharpened the arms legislation.“

Josef Dittli, Council of States member FDP and former Security Director of the Canton of Uri,
on 11 September 2017 in the Council of States

mw. To all Europeans to think: The fact that the Brussels bureaucracy can take into consideration the traditions of Switzerland, the 28 EU member states and the 3 EEA states in its legislative machinery, is simply impossible. Apart from this, the EU head office is pursuing entirely different objectives: there is no place for cultural diversity in the targeted centralised state with uniform law, but for the total digital monitoring of the citizens. A sharper control of the purchase of weapons and their possession serves this aim. Thus you can not prevent terrorist attacks, because terrorists do not buy their weapons in the shop ...