OPINION: Switzerland is now in a stronger position to negotiate with EU

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OPINION: Switzerland is now in a stronger position to negotiate with EU
Swiss voters showed that the far-right SVP remains isolated on the topic of immigration in September's referendums. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

After Swiss voters clearly rejected the initiative to end freedom of movement from the EU, Switzerland is in a stronger position to negotiate the framework agreement with Brussels and must flex its muscles, argues Vincent Bourquin from Le Temps.


The Swiss were impatient.
Deprived of the vote in spring due to Covid, they took their revenge, with 59% turning to cast a ballot.
These voters nearly created a big surprise by almost refusing to back the purchase of new fighter jets, which proves that the left was particularly mobilised at the weekend.
This influx to the polls also ended in a vote to continue free movement of people from the EU.
The Swiss have once again confirmed that the bilateral route (Switzerland's economic and trade relations with the EU are mainly governed through a series of bilateral agreements, after it rejected joining the European Economic Area in 1992) the is the right strategy. 
With only one big hitch, on February 9th, 2014, when a very small majority had accepted the initiative "Against mass immigration".
It had caused a political earthquake that was probably beneficial.
Since then, concrete measures have been taken, such as announcing vacancies (prioritising Swiss nationals for job vacancies) or creating a bridging pension. Not to mention that immigration has also declined sharply over the past seven years.


An exemplary campaign
This campaign against the initiative to end freedom of movement was exemplary.
First of all, there was this strong and unfortunately too rare alliance between employers and unions.


Academics and scientists came out of their ivory tower this time around and mobilised strongly, aware of the importance of Europe in the area of research.
This significant success at the polls also represented a victory for one woman in particular: Justice and Police Minister Karin Keller-Sutter (FDP).
The Federal Councilor committed herself, over and above, to this vote with a clear and positive message: thanks to free movement, Switzerland is doing well.
A winning strategy of putting the head of the Justice and Police Department on the front line, to the detriment of (Foreign Affairs Minister and SVP politician) Ignazio Cassis and (Economics Minister and SVP politician) Guy Parmelin, whose messages are often too confused.
With this victory, Keller-Sutter takes on a new dimension within the government. She therefore has every legitimacy to weigh even more on the European dossier, which is far from over.
The next step is going to be more complicated.
The EU wants to quickly conclude a new framework agreement with Bern.
However, several very sensitive issues are still open: accompanying measures, the directive on the rights of European citizens and state aid.
The negotiations promise to be tough.
But Switzerland's position is strengthened after the very clear rejection of the "EU Limitation Initiative".
The Federal Council, largely supported by the people, must make Brussels understand that it will not sign this agreement under any conditions.
This editorial, which was originally published in Swiss daily Le Temps on Monday, September 28th, was republished by The Local Switzerland with permission. Clarifications have been added in italics. 



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