PositionFreedom of movement in Berne, Switzerland

After rejecting the freedom of movement between Switzerland and the EU in a referendum on 9 February (with a very small majority of 50.3%), Switzerland now finds itself in a very uncertain position regarding relations with its main economic partner. The Federal Council, supported by the cantons, economic circles and political parties - with the notable exception of the anti-European and anti-migration party UDC - is now in a very weak position: discredited internally, and disowned by Brussels.

By launching initiatives and referendums, the UDC, a formidable war machine within a direct democracy, has "managed to express the uncertainty and concern within the population that was clearly perceptible over the last few weeks," admitted Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. Berne is now in the same situation as it was on 'black Sunday', on 9 December 1992, when it did not ratify the the European Economic Area (EEA), obstructing full EU-EFTA integration within the EEA: the same small majority, the division of the country (French-speaking Swiss and urban areas in favour, with German-speaking areas and Italian-speaking Ticino and the countryside against) and the emergence of Christoph Blocher, the leader of the UDC.

In fact, everything has changed. In 1992, Switzerland was less prosperous, and had to build a relationship with a much smaller EU. Today, it is almost obscenely booming - but perceived as badly managed, and it is also faced with a 28-member EU, which is caught up in both an economic crisis and a crisis of confidence. Within this difficult context, it at least wants to maintain the relations that have developed over the last two decades.

Attempting to show goodwill, the ministers concerned took responsibility for the failure. Nobody is considering resigning - and this is a particularity of direct democracy. Nevertheless, as Sommaruga confessed, "the negative vote by the population should be considered with a measure of self-criticism". The fact remains that migration "contingents," irreconcilable with freedom of movement, ensure that...

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