National Council and Council of States will vote on UN migration pact in winter session

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

Switzerland will probably not sign the UN migration pact in Morocco on 10/11 December. Now that all four responsible parliamentary commissions have voted on the proposals from various parties, it is on the table: three out of four commissions, the Political Institutions Committees of the National Council and the Council of States (PIC-N and PIC-S) as well as the Foreign Affairs Committees FAC-S have agreed to motions which instruct the Federal Council “not to approve the UN migration pact as intended, but to submit the motion for approval to Parliament in the form of a federal decree”.1 Only the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council FAC-N rejected an initiative in this direction by 14 votes to 11.2

The majority of the FAC-S, for example, stated that “a decision of this magnitude should not be taken bypassing parliament [...]. In addition, some members of the commission fear that the pact will fuel international expectations that will put Switzerland at a disadvantage in the future. They are of the opinion that the pact contains requirements which are at least unclear or incompatible with Swiss legislation and reject a signature by Switzerland.” These serious concerns are diametrically opposed to the Federal Council’s trivialising assertions: The guiding principles and goals “fully correspond to Switzerland’s migration policy” and: “There is no need for Switzerland to take action in domestic politics.”3
The Council of States will now vote on the proposals on 29 November and the National Council on 6 December. It is to be hoped that both councils will say no to the signing of an agreement whose impact on Swiss law and Swiss migration policy can only be partially assessed today and which moreover, has not been discussed publicly.
By rejecting the migration pact, the National Council and the Council of States can effectively prevent the signature by the Federal Council on 10 -11 December.

Solutions to global problems only possible through sovereign states

The FAC-N, which is the only one of the four commissions to recommend that the Federal Council approve the migration pact, justifies this as follows: “The majority of the commission is in principle of the opinion that global problems can only be tackled and solved at multilateral level. This pact is therefore a first step towards a global solution to the problems of migration”.
However, in today’s reality, this claim is very daring. If, despite its centralist organisation, the EU does not manage to overcome the migration problem and impose a solution on its member states, how can the “global community” manage it? Is the EU trying to push its unsolved problem towards the UN pact and thus discipline its own members? Some EU members like Austria and the Czech Republic have already announced that they will not sign the pact. The “target countries” of the migration pact are, as is well known, in Europe, including Switzerland. The major immigration countries, the USA and Australia, will not sign the document in their part.
Like many other countries, Switzerland is already making a major contribution to the admission of migrants on its own initiative. A quarter of the Swiss population are foreign nationals, tens of thousands of asylum seekers find their way to us every year (around 18,000 in 2017, around 39,500 in the peak year of 2015), many of whom are admitted temporarily or permanently. In addition, since March 2015, 3,000 people in need of protection have been admitted directly from the crisis region around Syria via the UNHCR, spread over three years.4 In September 2015, Switzerland also promised to accept 1,500 people in need of protection who had landed in Italy or Greece as part of the EU redistribution programme, and it has promised its participation in further EU redistributions.5
The fact that Switzerland is participating in these UN and EU actions is also quite correct insofar as it does so freely and willingly and can control immigration itself. As is well known, this is only the case to a limited extent. However, the fact remains that only individual sovereign states can seek and find suitable solutions to global problems together with other sovereign states of the world.

Strange change of “irregular” to “orderly” migration by “soft law “...

The scepticism of the parliamentary Committees is understandable in view of the press release of the Federal Council from 10 October 20186: There the migration pact is referred to as “soft law”, i.e. “not legally binding, but politically binding”. What does the Federal Council mean by “politically binding”? Then it would be better to admit that the pact is “legally binding” after all, since at least everyone knows how things stand. And it continues: “Its aim is to define common benchmarks for orderly migration for the international community, which would also result in a reduction in irregular migration”. In reality, the latter would probably also increase, because many more people would hope for regular migration.
On the planned worldwide reorganisation of labour migration, short extracts from the 32-page document, which is dense in content and rather difficult to understand, will be quoted and considered here. In this way all parts would have to be discussed and examined.7
Under objective 5: “Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration” we read among other things: “We commit to adapt options and pathways for regular migration in a manner that facilitates labour mobility and decent work reflecting demographic and labour market realities, […] with a view to expanding and diversifying availability of pathways for safe, orderly and regular migration.” (Item 21)
“We commit to…” doesn’t really sound “legally non-binding”!

… or human trafficking in the digital age

In 21.a) to j), various measures are listed which are intended to set global labour migration in motion by the states concluding “international and bilateral cooperation arrangements, such as free movement regimes, visa liberalisation or multiple-country visas” […] (b) In doing so, they should “review and revise existing options and pathways for regular migration, with a view to optimise skills matching in labour markets, in accordance with local and national labour market demands and skills supply, in consultation with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders” […]” (c).
It is therefore obviously a matter of skimming off qualified workers from low-wage countries (where the urgently needed workforces are then lacking!) and deploying them anywhere in the world, where a globalised corporation may just need people who do not grumble about third-class working conditions. Those readers who do not allow themselves to be deterred by the long sentence constructs and continue reading until 21j) will learn the details of the migration to be organised, for example by means of “temporary, seasonal and circular programmes as well as fast-track programmes in areas with lack of manpower” or “by issuing flexible, convertible and non-discriminatory visas and permits”.

“Circular migration”

The construct of “circular migration” originates from the EU project “Well-being 2030”, elaborated by the Brussels think tank “European Policy Centre”. Circular migration is described as follows:  “A considerable part of cross-border migration does not lead to permanent settlement in the destination country. Some migrants return to their country of origin after a certain period, others move on to a third country or ‘commute’ (e.g. seasonally) for short stays between two countries. The boundaries between ‘temporary’, ‘circular’ and ‘seasonal’ forms of migration are thus fluid.”8
The fact that such a migratory life goes against most people in the long run is probably to be masked by the term “well-being”.

Disempowerment of sovereign states and uprooting of people

Reading objective 5 of the pact, several things become clear: On the one hand, with pliable visas and fast courses, anyone could be made a “regular” migrant - but only as long as the company can use him. Then he or she is dispatched again with one click. On the other hand, the national laws of the individual states are to flow into each other and converge through “cooperation”, so that ultimately everyone could stay anywhere. In this way, the sovereign states would gradually lose control over migration in their territory and at the same time the cultural cohesion of the Swiss or Austrian or other population would be dissolved in a multicultural network that would go far beyond what we already have in some agglomerations today. For the individual, the de facto compulsion to permanent migration out of economic hardship would mean increasing uprooting instead of belonging to a community that is one of the indispensable basic human needs. The fact is that the vast majority of people want to remain in their familiar country if they are not forced to migrate by war and hardship. The only winners of these inhumane migration programmes would be global corporations without grounding.
One cannot imagine what effects the “improved ways for regular migration” in the 4.0 society would have on our own jobs and our good vocational training: 20 per cent highly qualified people and 80 per cent with mini-education who would have to fight with the influx of masses for cheap jobs with “flexible” working conditions ...     •

1    Press release of the FAC-S from 12 November 2018. See identical motions of the PIC-N (press release from 2 November 2018) and the PIC-S (press release from 9 November 2018)
2    FAC-N press release from 6 November 2018
3    “Federal Council approves UN migration pact”. Federal Council press release from 10 October 2018
4    “Federal Council adopts additional measures for the victims of the Syrian conflict”. Press release from 6 March 2015
5    “Switzerland is participating in the EU’s first programme for the redistribution of refugees and is stepping up its assistance on site”. Press release from 18 September 2015
6    “Federal Council approves UN migration pact”. Press release from 10 October 2018
8    cited by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education bpb at

Self-determination Initiative – Prominent voices from the business world

mw. The fact that opponents under the leadership of the trade association economiesuisse have organised such a fierce referendum campaign against the decision-making power of the people shows that generally the Swiss sovereign values the common good and the direct democratic structures that have developed over centuries more highly than the interests of some powerful large corporations in blurring and mixing of the legal spaces of sovereign states. There is a growing number of people in business as well, who cannot be locked in a “party grid”, but say Yes to the Self-determination Initiative, because they want to preserve direct democracy and the greatest possible independence as indispensable strengths of Switzerland.
Independence of Switzerland as a locational advantage and self-determination as a liberal concern
Mark Ineichen, managing director of the family business Otto’s AG in Sursee with 2000 employees throughout Switzerland, considers the priority of national law to be “absolutely right”. Ineichen does not expect any danger for the access of Swiss companies to international markets: “The economy is adaptable, we will find solutions.” Switzerland’s independence is a 100% locational advantage in international competition.1
Rolf Dörig, Chairman of the Board of Directors of various groups such as the insurance group Swiss Life and the world’s largest recruitment agency Adecco, comments in the same newspaper report as follows: “This vote is not about party politics, nor is it about the completely undisputed Convention on Human Rights or the principle that treaties must be adhered. [...] It is about the Federal Constitution, which has to stand above all. It is about the primacy of our Swiss law over an increasingly extensive interpretation and application of international law within our own country”. Rolf Dörig is also President of the Swiss Insurance Association (SIA) and as such a member of the Executive Committee of economiesuisse.
As well former banker and FDP member Konrad Hummler says Yes to the initiative on the grounds that self-determination is a “liberal-democratic concern”.
Particularly noteworthy is the statement by Gerhard Schwarz, former head of the NZZ business editorial office and then director of the globalisation friendly think tank Avenir Suisse. He says that the Self-determination Initiative is “quite compatible with liberal principles”. The Initiative is “no threat to the business location.” He adds that he considers such statements as “substantively wrong and unwise in terms of voting tactics.” The fact that the referendum gives primacy of national law over international law is “nothing extreme. This priority also exists in a similar form elsewhere, for example in Germany”.1
In view of these role models there may be other personalities who dare to raise their voices in favour of strengthening direct democracy and the separation of powers.

1     “Fight for the Self-determination Initiative: Prominent entrepreneurs break out of no-front” by Patrik Müller. Schweiz am Wochenende from 10.11.2018