Cross-border commuter financing as the next stumbling block

Cross-border commuter financing as the next stumbling block

Framework agreement Switzerland-EU
mw. Again, there is talk of an EU decree which Switzerland would have to adopt – if it were so unwise to sign a framework agreement. The EU member states have just agreed to a paradigm shift with regard to cross-border commuters. In future, cross-border commuters who have become unemployed will no longer be supported by their state of residence, but where they have recently made contributions to the social insurance system. Now, a cross-border commuter must have worked for three months in the host country in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
With a framework agreement, Switzerland would be forced to adopt this system change on the basis of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, with high costs. And this still without real control options: For how should our RAV (Regional Employment Centers) check whether the beneficiaries are seriously looking for jobs from their country of residence or maybe they even have a job there? Around 320,000 cross-border commuters from EU/EFTA member states already work here.1 It is likely that the new regulation would attract far more jobseekers, because it is well known that Swiss social benefits are higher than in most other countries.
By the way: According to the definition of the EU, “cross-border commuters” are not just working people from a neighboring country, who travel from Italy to Ticino to work every day and are back home in the evening, but: “cross-border commuters are persons who work in a member state, but have their place of residence in an other member state.”2 So, for example, on Sunday evening from Bulgaria to Switzerland and back home over the weekend. Under the EC Treaty, private persons have the right to move to other EU Member States in connection with taking up or pursuing employment without being discriminated in terms of employment, remuneration and other working conditions.
Such concrete examples show what an institutional framework agreement with Brussels would mean for Switzerland: We would grant the EU a general mandate to impose new regulations on us on an unknown scale, often at hefty costs. Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis can continue telling that this or another EU regulation is beyond his “red line”. Fact is that the EU committees do not care much about such red lines, which they also openly proclaim. Still worse: we citizens who are used to voting on whether or not we want this or any other change in our legal system – we would simply be ignored. That would be the end of direct democracy.
But in Switzerland it’s still the sovereign who decides. And even if the Federal Council defers the disclosure of the text of the contract ad nauseam – the voting date will come, and who wants to preserve the political rights of the Swiss people, will know how he has to vote. With letters to the editor and from citizen to citizen, each of us can contribute even today to the formation of opinion on this important issue.     •

1    Some figures: Employees in Switzerland in the 1st quarter of 2018: Swiss: 3.454 million. Foreigners: 1.550 million [almost half as many!]. cross-border commuters: 317,000 [i.e. about 20% of foreign workers!]. (Source: Federal Statistical Office, Employment Statistics ETS)
2    European Commission, cross-border workers (<link taxation_customs individuals personal-taxation crossborder-workers_en> )

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