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.


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Can ‘collegial’ Swiss government stay intact?

For the first time since 1928 the Swiss federal government will next month conclude a four-year term without any changes in the seven-member lineup. Can the team stay together?

Can 'collegial' Swiss government stay intact?
Official photo of the Swiss government for 2015. Photo: Federal Council

In past terms for more than 80 years there were changes due to resignations or a government member’s death.

But not this one.

The outgoing government was also noted for its stability and collegiality, in marked contrast to certain earlier governments, broadcaster RTS noted.

In the run-up to Sunday’s federal elections, the question on political observers’ lips is whether the current government will remain in place.

Currently, the seven-person executive body includes Simonetta Sommaruga, a Social Democratic party member who is serving as president this year in what is a rotating presidency every year, as well as Justice and Police Minister.

Other members are Foreign Affairs Minister Dider Burkhalter (Liberals); Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (Conservative Democratic Party); Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Amann (Liberals); Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications Minister Doris Leuthard (Christian Democrats); Defence Minister Ueli Maurer (Swiss People’s Party); and Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset (Social Democrats).

While the seven members have their differences, representing parties on the left, the centre-right and the right, they have kept their differences behind closed doors.

In a “serene climate they have been able to work efficiently,” an RTS report commented.

Ten years ago, the government was marked by regular quarrels that burst out in public among such players as Pascal Couchepin of the centre-right Liberals and Christoph Blocher, the Swiss People’s Party member who was voted out of office in 2007.

These spats have been set aside for the past four years.

Former cabinet minister Adolf Ogi of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) said there was a political reason for the collegiality.

“The parties are afraid of losing their seats,” Ogi told ATS.

“The concordance that we have known for years no longer exists,” he said.

“It’s a bit like the stock market, it has become volatile.”

It may be in the interest of the major parties to leave the government unchanged, since no member has indicated an intention to step down.

But members of the SVP say it’s time the party, which has the most MPs in the lower house of parliament, had two government members.

Felix Müri, vice-president of the SVP’s parliamentary wing, created waves earlier this week when he suggested that the party is ready to leave the government unless it gains an extra seat.

But other party officials later downplayed the threat saying the SVP has no intention of forming an opposition.

The government will be elected next month by a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses of parliament following the outcome of Sunday’s elections.

One of the central questions is whether Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf can hang on to her seat.

The former SVP member was first elected to the seven-member body in 2007 when fellow party member and incumbent minister Christoph Blocher was voted out.

Widmer-Schlumpf, from the canton of Graubünden, was subsequently turfed from the SVP and joined the newly created Conservative Democratic Party.

Her legitimacy has been questioned because of the small size of her party but she was subsequently re-elected in 2011.

Her re-election this time round may be more difficult.

François Nordmann, diplomat and former Swiss ambassador to the UK, is among those urging Widmer-Schlumpf to stay.

In a commentary for Le Temps newspaper, he praised the way she has handled her finance portfolio, including the measures she has taken to deal with tax evasion issues, approving the automatic exchange of information with other countries, for example.

First, though, it will be up to Widmer-Sclumpf to decide if she wants to stay on, once the parliamentary election results are known.