08 February 2009

The referendum of today

The EU discussion has been raging here in Switzerland for many years, and the latest most tangible result was that the Schengen agreement came into force in December 2008. This was particularly to the joy of all holders of non-European passports who are now able to go to France, for instance, without applying for a visa.

Today the Swiss are once again voting on the bilateral mobility agreement with EU as a consequence of the EU expansion of January 2007 to include Romania and Bulgaria. A yes would mean that the common agreement with EU on the mobility of the workers would continue and thus also include Romania and Bulgaria while a no would mean that Switzerland would withdraw from the bilateral agreement with EU. The latter would have significant consequences for all the non-Swiss working here - both the resident non-Swiss and the cross-border commuters, e.g. all the French that commute daily from France to work in Geneva. Obviously Switzerland will most probably enter agreements with each country instead but it will be much more complicated than just keeping the bilateral agreement with EU.

The Yes-sayers argue that it is economically necessary to continue the bilateral agreement while the No-sayers claim that it would be economical suicide to open the Swiss borders to workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

These are the same arguments that other countries in Europe have struggled with but what has surprised us the most is the No-sayers' crude graphic expression and their explicitly phrased aversion to Romania and Bulgaria: The Yes-sayers use much more sophisticated arguments for their recommendation but they have also expressed their point-of-view in a very comprehensible illustration:

We're very excited about the result of today's referendum. Unfortunately the No-sayers have been gaining grounds in the last few years, so ...

We've just learned that 60% voted yes to keeping the bilateral agreement. Sanity prevails!

No comments: