This wasn’t supposed to happen. At a time when the European Union, reeling from the ongoing near collapse of the Eurozone, has been preaching its key benefits – the removal of borders and the free transit of labor – moments ago Switzerland, with a tiny majority of 50.4%, voted in favor of new immigration curbs which requires the government to set an upper limit for foreigners, risking a backlash from the (utterly toothless) European Union.
In some ways this was a vote of the urban vs rural population: Voters in the cities of Zurich and Basel and cantons in western Switzerland opposed the measures, while those in rural German- speaking cantons and the Italian-speaking region of Ticino backed it, reports Bloomberg.
The problem for Europe is that the backlash against immigration was supposed to be a PIIG thing, having led to the surge of such nationalist parties as Golden Dawn in Greece, but they don’t matter as the will of the “peripheral” people is completely ignored in Europe. However, now that one of Europe’s most successful nations has opined against the free importing of labor, despite the prevalent perception that it has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of immigration, Switzerland has just left Europe’s pro-migration propaganda in shambles. To wit, from Bloomberg:
Immigration has supported economic growth, and the EU bloc is Switzerland’s top export destination. Roughly a fifth of its 8 million inhabitants come from abroad. About 45 percent of employees in its chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech industry are foreigners, according to scienceindstries, an association whose members include drugmakers Roche Holding AG and Novartis AG, and food company Nestle SA.
“We do need to hire talented individuals,” Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Brady Dougan told reporters on Feb. 6. “Having access to talent is something that’s important for all the businesses here.”
In the run-up to the vote, the initiative “against mass immigration” pitted companies small and large against the euro- skeptic Swiss People’s Party SVP, the biggest in the lower house of parliament. Corporations argued they need top talent from around the world to maintain their competitive edge, while critics, many of them members of the SVP, said the flood of newcomers is leading to worse working conditions, crowded trains and a housing shortage.
The unexpected outcome may lead to some dramatic consequences for Switzerland: according to Thomas Kern, chief executive officer of Zurich Airport, a “yes” to the vote could even jeopardize the country’s aviation industry by forcing the re-negotiation of landing rights. “A lot is at stake,” he told the newspaper Blick in an interview published on Feb. 7.
In response about public unease about the number of newcomers, the government already enacted yearlong curbs on residence permits for citizens of EU countries including Germany and France. There are also quotas for citizens of non-EU countries such as Australia and Canada.
Ironically, it could get even worse for fans of free labor movement before it gets better: “in a sign of how anxious the Swiss population is about foreigners, another initiative, which would cap the immigration rate at 0.2 percent of the resident population, is in the pipeline. The government, which opposes that measure too, hasn’t set a voting date yet.”
What remains unsaid here is that immigration will be the least of Swiss worries if, as the SNB has been warning for the past week, the Swiss housing market – already in an unprecedented bubble – undergoes a controlled demolition, precisely at a time when foreigners suddenly find themselves no longer welcome in the one-time netural utopia nestled within the tranquility of the Alps.
Regardless of the outcome for the Swiss economy, Europe is furious:
The vote also risks creating a rift between Switzerland and the EU, its biggest trading partner. The decision to open the borders 12 years ago was negotiated as part of a package of agreements that allow Swiss companies access to the common market, the government has warned.
According to European Commission President Jose Barroso, the free movement of persons was of “fundamental importance” and cannot be separated from the free exchange of goods, services and capital. “Within the framework of the bilateral agreement there are certain legal consequences,” Barroso told the Neue Zuercher Zeitung in an interview last November.
“That’s the open question — one doesn’t know what the EU will do,” said Andreas Ladner, professor of public administration at the University of Lausanne. “The EU has indicated that the initiative violates its free movement of people and won’t be tolerated.”
So now that the unthinkable has happened, just what will the unelected European bureaucrats do to enforce its “untoleration” of the Swiss democratic vote”: invade the mountainous country? Hardly.
Instead Europe will content itself with doing the only thing it knows how to do: use harsh language, in this case the following email it blasted out angrily in the aftermath of the Swiss vote, saying that “the European Commission regrets that an initiative for the introduction of quantitative limits to immigration has been passed by this vote. This goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland.”
Most importantly, it also goes against the core European principle of ignoring what the majority wants because everyone in centrally-planned, banker-controlled, insolvent European nations knows- only a few “good” unelected bureaucrats know what is best for everyone. As such the democratic vote must always be ignored, especially when it goes against the thesis preached by the politicians, the central bankers, and, of course, Goldman Sachs.