Trump and Switzerland: not so far apart?

Trump and Switzerland: not so far apart?
Photo: File/Jim Watson/AFP
While many people in Switzerland were shocked and dismayed by the election of Republican Donald Trump as US president last week, some feel it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Switzerland at all.

As local paper the Aargau Zeitung points out, some of Trump’s intentions as president could have been inspired by the alpine country itself.


In an article published on Monday the paper suggested that Trump’s isolationist tendencies – illustrated by his ‘America First’ slogan – mirror policy in Switzerland over many years.

Though surrounded by EU nations, the country has remained outside the bloc, while the Swiss public has increasingly shown its desire to pull away from EU influence in recent years.

In 2014 the public voted to bring in some form of immigration quotas for EU citizens, a move that has proved disruptive to its relationship with the rest of Europe and is still not resolved.

The anti-immigration initiative was backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which since elections in October 2015 has been the Swiss parliament’s largest party.

It is not inconceivable, therefore, that the public will also back the SVP’s ‘auto-determination’ initiative, which aims to place the Swiss legal system above international law.

If approved, it would allow the country to renounce international treaties if they conflict with Swiss law, a move which some, including Amnesty International, see as an attack on the European Convention on Human Rights and a step too far in Switzerland’s own isolationist leanings.

Anti-immigrant sentiment

If Trump’s infamous policy to erect a wall between the US and Mexico isn’t reflected in Swiss policy, some politicians here have expressed similar views.

In May this year SVP politician Andreas Glarner said Switzerland should “close all of its green borders with barbed wire”, after criticizing the country’s asylum policy.

At the time, residents of the wealthy Aargau village Oberwil-Lieli, where Glarner is mayor, had just voted to pay 290,000 francs a year instead of accepting to house their quota of ten asylum seekers.

What’s more, Trump’s intention to deport undocumented immigrant criminals isn’t so far from the SVP’s own hardline stance on foreign criminals.

Using shock poster tactics that many branded racist, the party led an initiative earlier this year aimed at deporting immigrants who have committed even minor crimes including fighting, money laundering and giving false testimony.

Though voters rejected that initiative, they had previously approved another where those guilty of serious crimes – including rape and murder – are deported. That law was adopted on October 1st this year.

Anti-Muslim sentiment

Trump last year called for a ban on Muslims entering the US. In Switzerland, too, anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in recent years.

In 2009 the Swiss people voted to ban the building of minarets on mosques, and in July this year the canton of Ticino introduced a ban on the burqa after a public vote on the matter.

In September the lower house of parliament narrowly approved a draft bill on a nationwide burqa ban to mirror Ticino’s.

In January Walter Wobmann, the SVP politician influential in both the anti-burqa and anti-minarets campaigns, came close to Trump’s position when he called for a ban on Muslim refugees entering the country as a reaction to terrorist acts in France.

His words were strongly criticized by other politicians.