Stop salami tactics to integrate Switzerland into EU

Yes to independent regulation of Swiss affairs

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

On 7 August, we could read in  the CH media press that “The Federal Council is out in force against the limitation initiative”, underscored by photos of four Federal Councillors who want to “launch an offensive” against the initiative.1
    What an explosive issue this must be to make the Federal Councillors turn away from their duty to provide proper information and instead go on an actual propaganda tour. Alone Karin Keller-Sutter, who some time ago put the fight against the limitation initiative at the top of her agenda, will appear at ten events, Alain Berset wants to cover the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and also Ignazio Cassis will campaign for a “nay” to the popular initiative.

First of all, it is important to record what you can actually read in the initiative text and what is being freely invented by EU turbos. Then the initiative also has to be placed in the context of the struggle of many citizens against those forces in the state and the economy which are openly joining forces with the EU bodies, in order to integrate Switzerland ever more closely into the undemocratic bureaucratic colossus.
    From this point of view, the rejection of the initiative by the people would be yet another slice of the salami – i. e. the paring back of Switzerland’s unique state structure, down to a narrow remnant. But above all, a nay would pave the way for the next, much thicker slice, which the united EU turbos are enthusiastically setting their sights on: the institutional framework agreement that would be on the table immediately after 27 September.

What the initiative demands...

In principle, it merely demands that the mass immigration initiative should finally be implemented. This initiative was accepted by the people and the cantons on 9 February 2014 and has since been part of the Federal Constitution (see the wording of the limitation initiative in the box) Article 121a, paragraph 1, of the 2014 Federal Constitution says, “Switzerland shall regulate the immigration of foreign nationals autonomously”, and the draft for Article 121b paragraph 1 says almost literally the same. Both articles prohibit international treaties that “violate this article” or that “grant foreign nationals the free movement of persons”.
    According to the constitutional article of 2014, residence permits for foreigners must be limited by annual maximum numbers and quotas. This regulation, which is clear and comprehensible to everyone, was – in open disregard of the will of the people – not implemented by parliament and the Federal Council, “because Brussels did not agree to it” – a weak justification for our elected representatives’ constitutional breach.
    And as the initiators of that time are being accused of not having clearly formulated what would happen to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (FMPA) if the EU did not accept the Swiss implementation, the transitional provision now states explicitly that the Federal Council is to suspend the FMPA in negotiations with the EU within one year of the initiative being accepted by the people; in the event of a failure to reach agreement, it is to terminate it within 30 days.

… and what the opponents falsely claim

  • “If the initiative were accepted, the Bilateral Agreements I would disappear” (Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter).2 
    Jo chasch dänkä (Swiss for “my foot!”) – they would not disappear just like that, even though – especially our own team! – is diligently disseminating the killer argument that the other six agreements would expire six months after the termination of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. The EU member states have the greatest interest in preserving some of the treaties that are highly important to them, above all the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons itself, which they would certainly rather have modified than not have at all – even if they do not admit this – not for love or money. It is well known that every year many more workers, students, professors (including family members for the purpose of reunification) pour into Switzerland than vice versa, and hundreds of thousands of cross-border commuters come here every day.
        The outgoing EU ambassador in Bern, Michael Matthiessen, may repeat as long as he likes his well-known argument that whoever wants to have direct access to the internal market must also participate in the free movement of persons.3 Switzerland has been participating for years and will gladly continue to do so, but not without limits!
  • “In addition, there is the risk that the abolition of the Bilaterals I would also call into question the Schengen and Dublin association agreements. This would have further consequences - first and foremost for security and the asylum system, but also for border traffic and our freedom of travel.” (Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter)
        In the same spirit, EU Ambassador Michael Matthiessen says, “In the Corona crisis we saw what it means when you can no longer move freely in Europe. Open borders and the free movement of persons have many advantages that we take for granted”.
    Here, Ms. Federal Councillor and Mr. EU Ambassador are „topsy-turvying“ things: the Schengen/Dublin Agreement is one of the Bilateral Agreements II and has nothing to do with the free movement of persons. The freedom to travel around Europe and the right to live, work and receive social benefits in a state of one‘s choice are two completely different things. So if the EU wanted to suspend Schengen/Dublin because Switzerland is not doing its bit elsewhere, that would be against the law and against the treaty. It is true that we already have some experience with this kind of thing, but so far the Federal Council has always found a clever way to deal with the illegal actions of Brussels.
  • “If we want to aggravate this [Corona] crisis, we will cut off our companies’ access to the EU internal market. Fifty percent of our exports go to the EU!” (Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter)4
    Ms. Federal Councillor forgot to add: … and sixty percent of our imports come from the EU! Incidentally, the legal basis for trade between Switzerland and the EU is primarily the 1972 free trade agreement, which is essential for the Swiss economy. The Federal Council wisely never mentions it, because its “modernisation”, i.e. its EU-compatible re-functioning and subordination to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice ECJ has already been preordained in the planned framework agreement.5
  • The Federal Council and the social partners have “done a great deal to ensure that the domestic workforce remains competitive”. (Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter)
    Then she mentions the only measly regulation that remained at the end of the parliament’s EU-compatible implementation of the mass immigration initiative, namely a job registration obligation for employers (but only for professions with high unemployment) to the Regional Employment Placement Centers (RAV), before they are allowed to directly look for workers abroad.
  • “Without foreign workers, the companies would simply not be able to process their orders”. (Hans-Ulrich Bigler, Director of the Swiss Trade Association SGV)6
    This wording is grotesque: as if anyone no longer wanted foreign workers! The initiators and we citizens neither want to throw out foreigners living here nor to let no more in – we just want to be able again to decide how many new foreigners can come in (as we deal with non-EU-Efta-citizens).
  • The goal of the initiators is not to limit immigration, but “to abolish the accompanying measures“. The initiative would put more pressure on wages. (Pierre-Yves Maillard, President of the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions SGB)7
    More pressure on wages? Would there not rather be less pressure, if fewer immigrants were to compete with the domestic workforce (Swiss and foreigners)? How absurd can one be, just because a social democrat does not want to support an SVP initiative under any circumstances?

Switzerland is a small country!

Since the introduction of the free movement of persons agreement with the EU in 2007, around 75,000 people have immigrated to Switzerland every year, which means a total of 1 million (today’s population is around 8,5 million). Over 25 percent of our population are foreign nationals; that is more than in most European countries. If unregulated immigration from the EU states continued, we would have a Swiss population of 10 million in a few years’ time.
    Never mind, imagines the think tank Avenir Suisse: “Anyone who fears, in view of such figures, that the last green spaces in the Swiss midlands will inevitably be built up and that the open spaces in the Alps will be endangered, will find reassurance with the following thought experiment: If you put New York in place of Zurich, London in place of Basel, Berlin in place of Berne, Paris in place of Geneva and Barcelona in place of Lugano, Switzerland would have 24 million inhabitants with these attractive metropolises of the Western world alone. In the remaining areas, there would thus be enormous room for the cultivation of traditional lifestyles that are spared from ‘density stress’, for abundant agricultural land, for local recreation areas and for sparsely populated mountain landscapes. So the question is not whether Switzerland can tolerate 10 or 11 million inhabitants, but how to organise this higher density. […]”8

Not very tempting, isn’t it?

In their argumentarium, the initiators counter such visions of the future with various weighty reasons, for example: If we say yes, Switzerland will not be concreted over any further, we will not be bogged down any further in traffic jams or congested trains, and living will become cheaper again. We will also protect the social welfare system: Today, 6 out of 10 welfare recipients are foreigners.9
    Such arguments should also appeal to trade unionists and the Greens …
    But there is still hope, because Avenir Suisse author Lukas Rühli complains: “Admittedly, Switzerland does not have the optimal basic conditions for this [for organising the higher density described above]: The small-scale federalism (26 cantons) and almost 2300 municipalities with a high degree of municipal autonomy make coherent planning in functional areas difficult”.
    Let us keep it that way! It is best if we citizens continue to organise Switzerland ourselves, on the basis of direct democracy, federalism and communal autonomy! Let us have as little legal adoption from Brussels and jurisdiction from Luxembourg as possible …

Big test for the upcoming referendum on the Framework Agreement

Back to the big chunk on the agenda after the smaller one of the limitation initiative – the institutional framework agreement. Brussels and our own negotiating team want to impose this on the Swiss people. And it is due to the framework agreement that four Federal Councillors are joining forces with the leaders of all our political parties (with the exception of the SVP, from which the initiative originated) and most of our business associations to with might and main prevent an “aye” of the Swiss people on 27 September. Now already, the electorate is to be worn down with the disadvantages threatening us from Brussels if we dared to agree to the limitation initiative. We will hear of the same disadvantages – and some more – before the vote on the Framework Agreement.
    The vote on the limitation initiative is a “landmark decision “, said Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter on 22 June, and after this Switzerland must “make an offer [on the Framework Agreement] to Brussels”. The “offer” apparently refers to the generous injection of billions into the EU’s Cohesion Fund - something that Ambassador Michael Matthiessen recently insisted on in the form of an ultimatum.10 Incidentally, Switzerland would have paid the next installment long ago if the EU had not imposed illegal sanctions on us (the last of which was the lockout from the EU stock exchanges). It is only for this reason that the National Council and the Council of States have so far put payment on hold.
    The fact is: If the Swiss negotiating team remembered which side of the table they should sit at, there would certainly be more to get out of the negotiations than has been the case so far, namely more than nothing. According to SVP President Albert Rösti, there would surely be a certain “hue and cry”, if the initiative were to be approved, but he thinks that the EU would offer its hand in finding an amicable solution, because: “The six agreements concerned out of a total of over 120 [for example, overland transport, research, trade in agricultural products such as wine and cheese] are more important for the EU or at least as important to them as they are for us.”11
    On 27 September we Swiss will have the opportunity to stake our claim towards the EU. In the words of the initiators: “Switzerland wants to conclude independent treaties with other states, that benefit both sides. Switzerland also needs foreign workers - but as a sovereign state, we ourselves decide who comes to our country”12 What is wrong with that? 


1  Altermatt, Sven. Bundesrat zieht mit Grossaufgebot gegen Begrenzungsinitiative ins Feld – und erhält gar Schützenhilfe von der SVP. (The Federal Council is out in force against the limitation initiative - and even receives support from the SVP) CH Media of 7 August 2020
2  Washington, Oliver. Abstimmungskampf neu lanciert. Vereinte Front gegen die Begrenzungsinitiative. (Voting campaign newly launched. United Front against the Limitation Initiative.) Media conference. SRF News of 22 June 2020
3  Gafafer, Tobias. EU Ambassador: “Der zweite Schweizer Kohäsionsbeitrag ist seit langem überfällig”  (The second Swiss cohesion contribution is long overdue), in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 14 August 2020
4  Media conference on the limitation initiative of 22 June 2020. Speech by Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter (
https://www.ejpd.admin.ch/ejpd/de/home/aktuell/reden---interviews/reden/2020/2020-06-22.html)
5  Institutional Agreement, Preamble and Joint Declaration EU-Switzerland on Trade Agreements, p.32-34 (in German), (
https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/dea/de/documents/abkommen/Acccord-inst-Projet-de-texte_de.pdf)
6  Washington, Oliver. Abstimmungskampf neu lanciert. Vereinte Front gegen die Begrenzungsinitiative. (Voting campaign relaunched. United Front against the Limitation Initiative). Media conference. SRF News of 22 June 2020
7  ibid
8  Rühli, Lukas. “Die 10-Millionen-Schweiz – Switzerland of the 10 million.” Avenir Suisse of 30 August 2016
9  Yes to the limitation initiative. Argumentarium (only in German) (
https://www.begrenzungsinitiative.ch/argumente/)
10 Gafafer, Tobias. EU Ambassador: „Der zweite Schweizer Kohäsionsbeitrag ist seit langem überfällig“ (The second Swiss cohesion contribution is long overdue), in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 14 August 2020
11 Schäfer, Fabian; Surber, Michael. Eine Zuwanderung von ein paar zehntausend Personen im Jahr kann auch nach Annahme der BGI nötig sein“. (The immigration of a few tens of thousands of people per year may be necessary even after acceptance of the BGI). Interview with Albert Rösti, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 14 July 2020
12 Yes to the Limitation Initiative. Argumentation (https://www.begrenzungsinitiative.ch/argumente/)

Wording of the popular initiative “For a moderate immigration (limitation initiative)”

The Federal Constitution is amended as follows:

Art. 121b Immigration without free movement of persons:

  1. Switzerland shall regulate the immigration of foreign nationals independently.
  2. No new international treaties or other new obligations under international law may be concluded that grant foreign nationals the free movement of persons.
  3. Existing international treaties and other obligations under international law may not be adapted or extended in contradiction to paragraphs 1 and 2.

Art. 197 No. 121
12 Transitional provisions to Art. 121b (Immigration without free movement of persons):

  1. The objective of the  negotiations should be to ensure that the Agreement on the free movement of persons of 21 June 1999 between the Swiss Confederation, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other, is repealed within twelve months of the adoption of Article 121b by the people and the cantons.
  2. Failing that, the Federal Council shall terminate the Agreement in accordance with paragraph 1 within a further 30 days.

(Translation Current Concerns)

Do you need a framework agreement for a joint Corona app?

mw. “The corona virus knows no borders.” This is the first sentence of a letter that four members of the Bundestag from Baden-Württemberg sent to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They want Switzerland to have their tracing-Apps connected with the tracing-Apps in EU countries. Yes, of course – what’s the problem?
    The legal basis for Swiss participation is missing, according to the resigning EU ambassador in Bern, Michael Matthiessen: Without a bilateral health agreement, there would be no EU-compatible corona warning system for Switzerland, and without “significant progress” on the framework agreement, no health agreement.1
    
The four politicians from our neighborhood on the other side of the Rhine oppose such a link and demand immediate cooperation with Switzerland on Corona apps from the EU Commission. In their letter they refer to the 300,000 cross-border commuters from France, Germany, Italy and Austria, including around 46,000 from southern Germany, who cross the border to Switzerland every day. “Cross-border living and working in our region, as in many other border regions in Europe, regardless of the EU’s external border, is not the exception, but the rule,” write Schwab and his three CDU party colleagues.2
    Bravo! Let’s resume the tried and tested, uncomplicated cooperation with our neighbouring countries! It is absurd to have to conclude a formal agreement with EU headquarters for every situation that life entails, which would then be incorporated into the ominous framework agreement. Over time, practically all areas of Swiss law would then be set from Brussels and approved by the European Court of Justice.
    There is still time to stop.


1 Gafafer, Tobias. EU ambassador: The second Swiss contribution to cohesion is long overdue, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 14 August 2020
2 Hehli, Simon. The pressure on Brussels is increasing. Switzerland should be allowed to connect to the European Corona apps, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 17 August 2020

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