• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Swiss voters massively reject immigration cap
A board reading in German "Today Vote" is seen on November 30, 2014 in the old town of Fribourg ahead of the referendum. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Swiss voters massively reject immigration cap

Nina Larson/AFP · 30 Nov 2014, 14:49

Published: 30 Nov 2014 14:49 GMT+01:00

Final results showed 74.1 percent of Swiss voters spurned the so-called Ecopop initiative, which called for slashing immigration to reduce population growth and urban pressure on the Alpine nation's idyllic landscape.
   
The Swiss also resoundingly rebuffed bids to scrap special tax breaks for rich foreigners living but not working in the country and to significantly hike the country's gold reserves.
   
Just under half of eligible Swiss voters cast their ballots in Sunday's vote, which is average in the country where the people are called to the polls every three months to voice their opinions on a seemingly endless range of
issues as part of the country's famous direct democratic system.
   
Although opinion polls had hinted the Swiss would vote "no" across the board, supporters of the Ecopop initiative had voiced hope silent support from the masses would lead to a surprise win.
   
That happened less than a year ago, when voters in February caught many off guard by narrowly voting to impose quotas for immigration from the European Union, throwing non-member Switzerland's relations with the bloc into turmoil.

Threat to Swiss economy 

The country has been scrambling ever since to figure out how to implement that result without pushing the EU, its main trading partner, to rip up a long list of bilateral agreements.
   
The government, all political parties, industry, employers and unions had urged voters to reject Ecopop, amid warnings its acceptance would fan the flames of the controversy with Europe.
   
Opponents had also slammed Ecopop as "absurd" and a threat to Switzerland's economy which depends heavily on immigrant labour.
   
"The verdict is clear," insisted Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who will take over the country's rotating presidency on Wednesday.
   
But she stressed Sunday's results did not bring into question February's EU immigration quota decision.
   
Foreign nationals already make up nearly a quarter of Switzerland's eight million inhabitants, official statistics show.
   
According to Ecopop, immigration is adding 1.1-1.4 percent annually to the Swiss population, putting the country on track to to have a population of 12 million by 2050.
   
The campaign wanted to cap immigration's contribution to population growth at 0.2 percent, which would mean a population of 8.5 million by the middle of the century.

'Civilisation collapse?' 

Story continues below…

"What I'm worried about is a civilization collapse," Philippe Roch of the Ecopop committee told RTS after the results became clear.
   
"But clearly this text did not convince voters," he acknowledged.
   
As it became clear that voters had massively rejected the initiative, sarcastic tweets flourished carrying the hashtag #Ecoflop.
   
In all, 59.2 percent of voters also rejected the bid to scrap tax breaks for rich foreigners living but not working in Switzerland, who today can choose to be levied on their spending rather than income.
   
Switzerland counts 5,729 millionaires and billionaires with foreign passports, who together pay around one billion francs ($1.04 billion) in taxes annually.
   
That is a far cry from what they would have paid had they been levied at the same percentages as average Swiss taxpayers, according to the left-leaning parties and unions behind the initiative.
   
But backers of the system insist wealthy foreigners contribute substantially to Swiss tax coffers and inject huge sums directly into the local economy, warning many would leave the country if they faced higher taxation.
   
"People can count," Christian Lüscher, a parliamentarian from Geneva for the Liberal Party told RTS as the results came in.
   
He pointed out that Geneva, where most beneficiaries of the current system live, risked losing hundreds of millions of Swiss francs in tax revenue alone if the wealthy residents packed up and left.
   
More than three-quarters of voters also heeded warnings from the Swiss National Bank that forcing it to hoard gold and banning it from selling the precious metal would tie its hands and could have disastrous consequences.
   
Analysts had warned the bank would be forced to buy around ten percent of the annual global gold production until 2019 to meet that requirement.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Nina Larson/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
London Olympic athletes fail new doping tests
IOC president Thomas Bach announced the news. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/ADP

The Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee reports 23 new doping failures from 2012 Games.

Swiss supermarkets look to scrap free plastic bags
Coop is among the supermarkets considering the idea. Photo: Coop

Voluntary agreement may be the solution after a commission quashes idea of outright ban.

Head-on crash leaves Swiss motorcyclist dead
The accident happened on the way to Les Mosses. File photo: Falk Lademann

A motorcyclist died in a head-on crash with a car on a mountain road in Vaud.

Bern renews funding for controversial arts centre
Bern town hall. File photo: Dennie Jarvis

The Reitschule has been granted a reprieve after authorities in the city agreed a 1.5 million franc grant to keep it going until 2019.

Neighbours’ day: Swiss cities join growing European party
Around 40 towns in Switzerland will celebrate Neighbours' Day. Photo: Tag der Nachbarn

St Gallen becomes the latest Swiss town to take part in European Neighbours’ Day.

Swiss boffins create cannabis e-cigarette
File photo: Marcel van Hoorn/AFP

"Cannavaping" for medical use is safer than a joint and better than a pill, say Lausanne scientists.

Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
The resort of Verbier in the canton of Valais. File photo: The Local

Valais and Vaud launch joint candidacy for the 2026 winter Olympics.

Ticino beaches praised in European report
Bathing spots on Lake Lugano were among those rather excellent. Photo: Roland Gerth/Swiss-image.ch

More than 100 Swiss beaches have been rated as excellent for water quality in a European report.

Gotthard base tunnel: what you need to know
The new rail tunnel is the longest and deepest in the world. Photo: Alp Transit Gotthard

The longest tunnel in the world will be inaugurated in Switzerland amid great fanfare on June 1st. The Local takes you through it.

Bern pulls plug on lakes after heavy rain forecast
Lake Biel/Bienne is one of the three affected lakes. Photo: Biel/Bienne/Seeland tourism/Swiss-image.ch

Authorities are reducing the water level of three Swiss lakes this week so they can cope with heavy rain to come.

Photo: Swiss Tourism
Features
10 unspoken rules for fitting in with the Swiss
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Photo: Alp Transit Gotthard
National
Gotthard base tunnel: what you need to know
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Sport
Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Photo: Broad Bean Media
National
Basel: Muslim schoolboys must shake hands or face fine
Photo: Emmanual Dunand/AFP
Sport
Brother of Belgian bomber wins gold in Switzerland
Photo: Gstaad Tourism
National
Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
Photo: Cervo
Travel
In pictures: Switzerland’s most welcoming hotels
Photo: Aargau cantonal government
‘Beast of Rupperswil’ was local football coach
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Features
Geneva exhibition marks 200 years of Frankenstein
Photo AFP
National
Swiss basic income campaign sets Guinness world record
Photo: St Gallen police
Society
Police hunt killer of man shot dead in St Gallen street
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Society
Presumed jihadist could have Swiss nationality quashed
Photo: Zurich Zoo
Culture
Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Swiss farmer loses appeal in row over noisy cow bells
Photo: Esparta Palmer
Health
44-year-old woman refused fertility treatment on insurance
File photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Society
Jilted admirer shocks woman with tattoo... of her face
File photo: Flickr
Health
Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
Swiss basic income vote: what you need to know
 Photo: Heinrich Plum
National
Lidl uses German mountain to promote its Swiss products
4,618
jobs available