Swiss Pull Out of EU Negotiations, May Vote Against CO2 Legislation
May 29, 2021 (EIRNS)—Switzerland abruptly withdrew from negotiations to expand their relations with the European Union over fears of the erosion of their sovereignty. The Swiss government’s decision came just three weeks before a June 13 national referendum on climate legislation. The “Federal Act on the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions” (CO2 Act), which would increase energy and other prices, could very well fail.
Switzerland’s withdrawal from EU negotiations is also seen as another failure for the hopeless European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, under whose auspices the negotiations were taking place.
The Swiss and the EU have been negotiating a new agreement since 2014. Although a draft agreement had been completed in 2018, negotiations to finalize the deal had been unsuccessful on key issues affecting Swiss sovereignty.
Under the guise of creating a “level playing field,” the EU had demanded that Switzerland adopt the EU’s free movement directive, which would give EU citizens uncontrolled access to the Swiss labor market on the same terms as within the EU. The Swiss opposed it because it would lead to “wage-dumping,” and the practice of cross-border workers being employed under foreign contracts. Some Swiss laws protecting its workforce would not be allowed in EU countries and the Swiss would have to give them up.
Swiss citizens generally have higher incomes than those in the EU, because their cost of living is higher. Current agreements allow EU nationals to live in Switzerland only if they have a job or other sources of income. Switzerland is a small country with 8.5 million citizens and already has 1.4 million EU citizens living there, while only 450,000 Swiss live in EU countries.
Another issue would demand Swiss modify their legislation to correspond to new legislation adopted by the EU. That would negate the right of Swiss citizens to petition for a referendum on any law if a sufficient number of citizens opposed it. Moreover the EU was demanding that the Swiss accept the judgments of the European Court, which was also a no-no for the Swiss.
It should be noted that issues of bank secrecy and taxation have already been resolved in separate agreements several years ago. The real issue is sovereignty.
“The Swiss would want to be part of the EU economically but they don’t want to be part of the EU politically,” the May 28 posting of Euronews quoted Laurent Goetschel, director of the think tank Swisspeace and professor of political science at the University of Basel as saying. Goetschel suggested that the Swiss government felt it would not be able to get an agreement accepted by Swiss citizens. Ultimately, “the government came to the conclusion that such a treaty would not have enough chances in a popular referendum,” Goetschel said.
In the background is the CO2 Act referendum which will take place on June 13. There is a big mobilization by both conservative Liberals and the conservative Swiss People’s Party as well as industrial stakeholders to defeat the legislation. Its defeat would be the first of its kind in Europe.