Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Swiss Quota Vote - Part Two

In Part One, I outlined the basic context of the controversial Swiss vote to curb immigration from the European Union. Though it never joined the EU, Switzerland managed to enjoy the benefits of its common market, which is the largest in the world. In practice, this was made possible by negotiating a host of bilateral agreements.

One such agreement concerns the free movement of workers. In exchange for countless economic perks, starting in 2008, the Swiss agreed to exempt EU citizens from immigration restrictions, thus attracting a sizable influx of EU nationals looking for Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, and Swiss salaries.

Fast-forward to 2014. Switzerland's economy is healthy, unemployment is low, but there's a general sense that today's population growth is not sustainable at its current level of 80,000 new entries a year.

This past Sunday, the Swiss voted on whether to reinstate immigration quotas from the EU. 50.3% of them voted yes.

While liberals and the business lobby were in favor of the status quo, the right joined forces with environmentalists to support the reinstatement of the quotas. The right imbued the campaign with xenophobic overtones, while environmentalists warned that unconstrained economic growth is not feasible in an alpine country smaller than South Carolina. Meanwhile, the business lobby counter-argued that the quotas would hurt the economy.

By Swiss law, the Government has to honor the people's decision. This means the Government is in a pickle, because the free movement of persons is a legally binding bilateral agreement with the EU.

What happens now? In principle, the EU could void all the bilateral agreements they negotiated with Switzerland. The EU is Switzerland's number one trading partner, and things could get ugly.

Though I'm the only (naturalized) Swiss citizen in our family (as you know, I carry a Swiss Pet Passport), I didn't get to vote because I'm a dog. This is unacceptable, because I pay a yearly dog tax. Few things upset me like taxation without representation.

My parents have been here long enough and will not be affected. If push comes to shove, I'm a citizen, so I can sponsor them.

Stay tuned. We have one more installment planned to focus on the vote in the Italian-speaking regions. In America, National Public Radio did a piss poor job of reporting this issue, so Steve Inskeep asked me to fill in the details.


  1. Tootsie, perhaps you could enlighten Gail on what will be the situation for her brother, a UK citizen of course, whose job was moved to Geneva two years ago so that his (American) company could take advantage of lower Swiss taxes? Will he be allowed to stay in Swtzerland? If needs be, could you possibly adopt him?
    Toodle pip!

    1. It's unclear how the changes will be implemented, but the Swiss Government says there won't be any problems for those who already benefited from the free movement agreement. It also seems like nothing should change in the next 3 years or so.

      I'm not sure whether I could adopt him; my human parents are already so much work... but let's keep all options open :)

    2. Thank you for the explanation Tootsie. In fact Gail's brother has two standard poodles back in England (plus a wife and two kids!) who would be vey happy to see more of him, should he have to leave Geneva.

  2. I think it's completely unacceptable that you don't get to vote. Canine citizens are thoughtful and WAY smarter than the humans they allow to vote. Do we need to arrange a protest?

  3. Thanks for the information Tootsie. We heard not much about the Swiss vote here, they only mentioned it in the news ( although the results of the votes are very important for us too). I think next time only we dogs should vote.


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