24 September 2020

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Switzerland takes free movement agreement with EU to referendum

Switzerland will go to a referendum this Sunday on critical issues such as the future of the free movement agreement with the European Union and the purchase of fighter jets for the military. A referendum in 2014 on both issues was voted no.

Is free movement between Switzerland and the EU at stake?

One of the questions that Swiss will vote on at the ballot box is whether borders with the European Union will remain open. The country’s largest right-wing political formation, the Swiss People’s party (UDC), wants a vote “no” to free movement.

The fact that Swiss voted ‘yes’ to reintroducing migrant quotas, especially for Europeans, in a referendum in 2014 indicates that this call is possible, although the chances of it being accepted are low.

6 years ago, the Swiss agreed to reintroduce migrant quotas, especially for Europeans, albeit by a very small margin.

In that referendum, right-wing parties launched a new initiative aimed at ending the agreement on the free movement of persons (AFMP), signed with the European Union in 1999, arguing that “uncontrolled and disproportionate immigration” and “job opportunities are under threat” in the country.

In 1992, the Swiss had voted “no” to enter the European Economic Community, which was seen as a pre-formation of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Fighter jets returning to snake story

Another issue on which the Swiss said “no” in the referendum in 2014 is defence. The public had rejected 22 fighter jets the government had planned to buy from Sweden.

This time, the federal government is asking for a vote on whether the budget for the purchase of fighter jets should be limited to 5.6 billion euros.

The Swiss Air Force has about 26 F-5 Tiger fighter jets that are used only in training, and 30 F/A-18s that are scheduled to be withdrawn from service by 2030.

The opposition considers the purchase an “unnecessary luxury” against new dangers in today’s world such as natural disasters, climate changes and cyber attacks.

The government, on the other hand, is demanding that the procurement project take place, pointing out that it is important to protect airspace at important events such as the UN meetings in Geneva.