• 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
Swiss sports court upholds Russia ban from Paralympics
Head of Russia's Paralympic Committee Vladimir Lukin. Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP

Russia has lost an appeal against a suspension issued over a vast, state-run doping programme.

Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
The robots are designed to carry out local deliveries autonomously. Photo: Starship

Robots will be seen on the streets of the Swiss capital next month.

 Mia and Noah are top Swiss baby names – again
File photo: Robert Valencia

Name choices have varied little over the past few years.

Valais battles to save famous apricots from fruit fly
Apricots are a symbol of the Valais. Photo: Valais Tourism

The suzukii fruit fly has destroyed up to 20 percent of this year’s luizet apricots.

US approves Chinese mega deal with Swiss company
The chairmans of ChemChina and Syngenta met in February to discuss the deal. Photo: Michael Buholzer/AFP

ChemChina's takeover of Syngenta would be by far the biggest-ever overseas acquisition by a Chinese firm.

Germany bolsters Swiss border against refugees
Ther Swiss-German border at Kreuzlingen. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The number of refugees trying to enter Germany through Switzerland has risen significantly in 2016.

Rio 2016
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Nino Schurter wins Switzerland's third gold of Rio 2016. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Nino Schurter takes mountain biking gold on the last day of competition.

Brexit
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Many Swiss reportedly now see Britain as an ally. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP

Most Swiss now think Brexit will have a positive effect on Switzerland, according to a new survey.

Refugee stabbed and killed at asylum centre
The victims were treated at Aarau hospital, near to the accommodation centre. Photo: Aarau hospital

A 43-year-old died after he was stabbed by another asylum seeker.

Nespresso inventor says wife and Rome cafe inspired 'pod'
A trained rocket engineer, Favre joined Nestle's packaging department in 1975. Photo: AFP

Had Eric Favre not married an Italian woman, it's possible none of us would be drinking Nespresso.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
File photo: Chase Elliott Clark
Lifestyle
Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
Photo: Katwarn.de
National
Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
Photo: The Local
National
Study: grazing cows are worse for the environment
Photo: Kecko
National
Terror fears trigger Swiss run on guns
Photo: Commune d'Ayent
National
Spectacular Valais ‘bisse’ to feature on new banknote
Photo: Swiss Post
National
Swiss Post moves to accept debit cards – sometimes
Photo: Chris Marquardt
Lifestyle
Police break up dispute over late-night laundry
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Features
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
4,697
jobs available