Swiss Referendum

Switzerland will vote on three different referendums just days from now, on the 9th of February. One of these referendums will decide whether proposed restrictions will be enforced on the amount of people from European Union countries that are allowed to immigrate to Switzerland. Many people – especially Swiss business leaders – are concerned that this could both threaten the economy and sour relations between Switzerland and other countries it frequently does business with, or employs workers from. For a country that continuously ranks highly on the Global Peace Index, it seems in danger of disgruntling both citizens and outsiders.

Despite the country’s apparent economic success and peaceful society, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), are pushing the initiative “against mass immigration”, blaming an influx of foreigners for higher crime rates, less jobs for the Swiss, crowding and rent rises. If Switzerland votes in favour of the law there will be strict annual quotas on the number of EU citizens permitted residency.

Of 1 420 Swiss citizens surveyed by gfs.bern in January, 43 percent indicated they would vote in favour of the quotas. This figure indicates a six percent increase in support of the proposed law, compared to the previous month. Data collected by the Institute for Economics and Peace in relation to  the Global Peace Index show that Switzerland received the lowest possible score in relation to an indicator measuring ‘hostility to foreigners’.

Businesses aren’t the only ones opposed to the suggestion, with the government and industry lobbies urging people to vote against it.  The head of the federal economics department, Johann Schneider-Ammann said "The Swiss economy has relied on foreign workers for decades…The manufacturing, building, health-care and agriculture industries are dependent on workers from abroad."

Despite being surrounded by countries that belong to the EU, Switzerland itself is not a member and voted against opening talks about joining in another referendum in 2001.

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