SVP politician quits to go back on the rails

Millionaire businessman and Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP Peter Spuhler denies he is quitting parliament because of problems faced by his party.

SVP politician quits to go back on the rails

The 53-year-old federal MP for the canton of Thurgau reiterated on Tuesday that he is stepping down at the end of the year to concentrate on his entrepreneurial activities.

Spuhler, who has served in the lower house of parliament since 1999, is owner and CEO of the Stadler Rail Group, a maker of trains with subsidiaries in several countries, including the US.

In a press release, the prominent politician said that after much thought he decided  “due to the difficult economic environment” to concentrate on his business activities rather than his political ambitions.

Because of the economic weakness of the euro area and the relative strength of the Swiss franc, Spuhler said Stadler Rail would increasingly have to pursue customers outside of Europe.

That will mean that he has travel around the world a lot.

The situation has led him to focus more on his work as head of Stadler, in addition to his involvement with three other companies.

With sales of 1.4 billion francs last year, Stadler Rail employs 4,500 workers.

“The health of my employees is in my heart,” Spuhler said in his statement.

“The situation in our key markets – such as Italy, Spain as well as Eastern Europe – is worse, with a lower order volume,” he told Tages Anzeiger newspaper.
Stadler still has a full order book, “but we must now apply for procurement contracts for 2014 or later,” he said.

“In this difficult situation, I had to decide between Stadler and politics.”

Switzerland's most popular political party, the right-wing SVP is facing challenges after losing its second seat on the seven-person federal cabinet several years ago and its anti-immigration policies have repeatedly come under fire.

Spuhler said the SVP thrives on tough debates and his resignation has “nothing to do” with disagreements between him and the party.

He plans to remain a member of the party and has not ruled out an eventual return to politics.

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The decision to re-open Switzerland’s borders is ‘incomprehensible’, says Swiss People’s party

The right-wing group says the government’s plan to start recruiting foreign workers from June 8th and re-open its borders with Germany, Austria and France from June 15th, is detrimental to Switzerland’s future.

The decision to re-open Switzerland's borders is 'incomprehensible', says Swiss People's party
The SVP is against Switzerland opening its borders to the EU. Photo by AFP

In response to the Federal Council’s announcement about the easing of travel and employment restrictions as of June 8th, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP / UDC) said on its website that it “demands the maintenance of strict border controls”. 

“The decision to restore the free movement of people and to abolish border controls is an affront to the Swiss who find themselves unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the SVP said in a press release.

It added that even though “almost two million people, more than a third of all Swiss workers, are on short-time work and more than 150,000 have lost their jobs, the Federal Council wants to bring even more foreign workers into Switzerland”.

READ MORE: Switzerland relaxes work and residency restrictions: What does this mean for foreigners?

It goes on to argue that “following the sharp increase in unemployment in all neighbouring countries, Switzerland will inevitably suffer an additional influx of immigrants that cannot be arrested because of the free movement of people”.

“In addition, the number of people entering Switzerland illegally will again increase due to the opening of borders”, the SVP said.

Even before the latest government announcement about the re-opening of borders, the SVP, the largest of Switzerland’s political parties, had been campaigning for the end of the Swiss-EU agreement on free movement of people, and against immigration in general.

In its press release, the party reiterated its long-held position that foreigners “have come to settle in our small country to work or take advantage of our social system”. 

On September 27, the Swiss will vote on the SVP-sponsored initiative, seeking to curb EU immigration into Switzerland and allowing Switzerland to set its own migration quotas. 

The referendum was originally scheduled to be held on May 17th, but had to be postponed until September due to the Covid-19 pandemic.