07:00 Swiss time, Sunday, 09 February 2014.
It’s probably no state secret that the alpine republic in the centre of Europe has seen its population swell — the opening and realisation of free movement of people between Switzerland and the rest of the EU and EEA has seen visible changes for Switzerland.
But just how good are the changes? Here, there are as many naysayers as they are optimists. Naysayers will point out to overloaded trains, poor sanitation, and a Switzerland that is running out of space for quality living areas — some fear the eventual “Hong Kong-isation” of the neutral isle. They also point out to an increasingly growing presence of those of the “big canton up north” (that’s Germany) being unwilling or having problems speaking in Swiss-German, as well as a loss of sovereign rights to say who can or cannot come to Switzerland.
I’m part of the optimists that say there are better ways for Switzerland to deal with its immigration problems than to chuck the excess load out. Reimplementing quotas would be the beginning of the end between Bern and Brussels; in spite of me being a EU-rosceptic I still believe the end of free movement between Switzerland and the rest of the EU is a bad idea. Bern and Brussels work with the bilateral agreements under the condition that a guillotine clause is included. In other words, if Switzerland breaks or withdraws from one agreement, all agreements with Brussels could be at stake — Brussels may also choose to pull out from the entirety of agreements as well. Swiss citizens may, then, in future encounter more red tape when entering other European nations; the era of the “EU / EEA / Swiss nationals” fast track access channel may soon come to an end. It would also impose unnecessary red tape amongst foreign citizens coming into Switzerland. Buying a house and setting up shop in Switzerland would soon be something much easier said than done if the proposal was passed; and I’m speaking like this even as a citizen of Switzerland.
No amount of xenophobia, even racism, will solve the prickly problems of the present day. It is time we did less “take-away” sums and “added” more for people in Switzerland, both local and foreign. Let’s integrate, not separate; show smiles, not scorn. As a Swiss abroad I treasure the diversity of international metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Zurich and London. These cities thrive because they’re inclusive, not restrictive (this is true even for the capital of Communist China).
It’s not a good idea to bite the newcomers to Switzerland. As a Swiss citizen resident overseas I have sent in my vote already. I urge all to take a stance and not let Switzerland backtrack on its pledges or become some kind of laughingstock, be it in Berlaymont or anywhere. Introducing quotas would mean the Swiss are ready to take a langlauf that could eventually send it ploughing downhill, and only God knows how painful it might be in the end.
By voting NEIN / NON / NO to the “Gegen Masseinwanderung” popular initiative, which foresees unsightly quotas and restrictions amongst foreigners in Switzerland, we keep things the way they are — which is very much a Swiss tradition — and we remain open, economically, and socially as well. Don’t bite the newcomers — don’t let a discriminatory bill have the upper hand over reason.
I have already voted. I leave it up to you and all the rest of us in making sure Switzerland remains an inclusive and open society.