SVP won’t call referendum on mass immigration initiative

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) says it will not call on Swiss voters to decide on how its mass immigration initiative should be implemented.

SVP won’t call referendum on mass immigration initiative
An SVP poster ahead of the vote on curbing immigration. Photo: AFP/Sebastien Bozon

While the SVP is unhappy with the implementation proposals currently going through parliament it will not launch another referendum, Party president Albert Rösti told the SRF television Tagesschau news programme on Wednesday evening.

“We made a clear decision at a party leadership meeting not to call a referendum,” Rösti told the programme.

“We would be asking people to vote on something that would achieve nothing,” he said, referring to opposition in parliament to implementing tough immigration quotas.

The right-wing party spearheaded the initiative to curb mass immigration that was approved by voters in February 2014.

Since then the government and parliament have been seeking ways to implement the measures that will not put Switzerland’s relations with the European Union in jeopardy.

A large number of bilateral agreements, including one on the free movement of people, are at the heart of Swiss-EU relations.

Curbs on EU immigration would contravene that agreement.

Parliament has been considering ‘light’ forms of implementation of the mass immigration initiative, ranging from some quotas for foreign workers to prioritizing the resident Swiss workforce.

Consensus is forming for a proposal that would require employers in job sectors affected by higher than average unemployment to report vacancies to unemployment offices and invite resident candidates for interview.

If Swiss applicants are subsequently turned down in favour of foreign applicants, the companies would have to justify why.

However, the details still have to be ironed out.

The SVP wants its initiative to be strictly implemented, with rigid quotas on immigration put in place.

Rösti said that if a watered-down version of the initiative was implemented people would notice immigration rising again.

If this happened, the SVP would launch an initiative to scrap the bilateral agreements with the EU.

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Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Swiss voters on Sunday backed making streaming services pay to boost Swiss film-making, and funding the expansion of Europe's Frontex border agency, thereby avoiding another row with Brussels, according to projected results.

Swiss back 'Netflix' law and steer clear of 'Frontexit'

Market researchers GFS Bern, who conducted the main polling throughout the campaign, projected that 58 percent of voters backed the so-called “Lex Netflix”.

They said 72 percent backed Switzerland joining the planned ramping up of Frontex, providing more money and staff to protect the continent’s Schengen open-borders zone.

And 59 percent approved a law change that would automatically register individuals as organ donors after death, unless they opt out.

Under the wealthy Alpine nation’s direct democracy system, voters are called to the polls four times a year to decide on specific topics, according to popular demand.

The polls closed at midday (1000 GMT), with most ballots having already been sent in by post over the past four weeks.

The results are due later Sunday, with each of the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons reporting their results in turn.

Lex Netflix
The “Lex Netflix” vote approves an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

Since 2007, domestic television broadcasters have been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

The amendment was brought forward to reflect the dramatic shift in how audio-visual content is now consumed, with global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue now making hundreds of millions of dollars in
Switzerland each year.

Streaming services will now have to submit to the four-percent rule.

Swiss cinema production pulls in around 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) a year, according to the culture ministry — but could now be in line for an additional 18 million francs.

The platforms will also be required to ensure that European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as in the neighbouring European Union.

Right-leaning opponents had collected enough signatures to take the change to a referendum.

Transplant laws
The vote on changing the organ donation laws will see everyone become a potential donor after death unless they have expressly opted out.

Up to now, transplants were only possible if the donor clearly consented before they died.

The government and parliament wanted to change the law to a “presumed consent” model — as used in a number of other European countries.

Relatives will still have the right of refusal if they suspected that the deceased would not have wanted to be an organ donor.

A group of opponents, backed by the populist and religious right, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 patients were awaiting transplant organs in Switzerland, a country of around 8.6 million people. 

But 72 people died last year while on the waiting list, according to the Swisstransplant organisation.

Frontexit averted
Ties between Brussels and Bern have been strained since May 2021 when non-EU Switzerland suddenly decided to end years of discussion towards a broad cooperation agreement with the bloc.

The clear support for Frontex has avoided aggravating the stand-off.

Under Europe’s expansion plan, Frontex will have a permanent contingent of 10,000 border guards and coast guards.

Switzerland will nearly triple its financial contribution to Frontex to 61 million Swiss francs ($61 million, 58 million euros) annually, and increase its personnel contribution from six people to around 40.

Migrant support organisations, backed by left-leaning political parties, collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

The government warned voters that if they rejected the expansion, Switzerland risked automatic exclusion from the Schengen area.