– The EU and abroad
What kind of a relationship should Switzerland and the EU have going forward? The respondents signal that there are alternatives to the EU, although the bilateral agreements are beyond dispute.
One of the major public discussions of 2018 has been about globalization. While the main issue at the international level is the introduction of new tariffs, Switzerland is mainly dealing with the question of how to structure its relationship with the European Union (EU). Should there be a framework agreement? And if not, what does the future hold for the bilateral relationships?
The result of the negotiations between Switzerland and the EU was still unknown as this issue went to press. However, it will be interesting to see how the voters rank Switzerland’s foreign relations, regardless of the scenario.
Let us first turn to the EU. Confidence among the respondents about the EU developed remarkably from 2005 to 2016, growing from 20 percent to 54 percent. Yet trust has rapidly eroded over the past two years, falling to only 34 percent 3.2. During
Figure these two years, the UK approved Bwrexit and Switzerland failed to make progress in the negotiations for a framework agreement, while the refugee crisis created conflict within the EU, laying the groundwork for the ascension of politicians who are fundamentally critical of the EU.
The survey did not ask which factor was directly responsible for the waning confidence, but 65 percent of respondents find that the EU has been somewhat
or significantly weakened in the last twelve months. The majority (54 percent) think that strengthening trade ties with large countries like China or the US could be enough to compensate if the Swiss economy’s access to the EU market deteriorates. An assessment that Ignazio Cassis shares only in part. “That could theoretically be possible,” says the Federal Councillor and Foreign Minister, “but in actuality it would take a lot of time.” In the short term, he calls this substitution “unrealistic,” as “our current trade volume with Baden-württemberg and Bavaria alone is almost one-quarter larger than the volume with all of China.” Read the interview with Ignazio Cassis and his analysis of the results beginning on 58.
page How the voters perceive the possibility of substituting the EU trade volumes is put into perspective when they are asked specifically about the significance of the bilateral agreements. Of respondents, 82 percent consider these to be important or even very important. The electorate also seems unified when asked about their desired relationship with the EU. The bilateral agreements are the most popular option at 65 percent, up 17 percentage points compared to 2017 3.1. When asked about
Figure the alternatives, 13 percent of voters would support joining the EEA, 13 percent would terminate the bilateral agreements and 3 percent would join the EU.
Many respondents agree OUR ECONOMY IS BETTER that Switzerland’s image abroad has not improved over the last twelve months 3.4: in 2016,
Figure 52 percent thought that Switzerland had gained respect, while now only 36 percent still find this to be true. Trust in the EU has diminished, but Switzerland has also not grown more popular in their eyes – the relationship has cooled off in general.
Given these results, it is hardly surprising that only 34 percent of the respondents find Swiss politics takes an offensive stance vis-à-vis other countries, while 69 percent would also like to see politicians adopt a more aggressive approach 3.3.
Figure Nevertheless, despite the tense foreign affairs situation, 96 percent (+7) of respondents are confident that the Swiss economy was in a better state than just over a year ago when compared to its international competitors. That corresponds to the results from section 1 which indicate that most Swiss
(see page 54) citizens have practically no concerns about their job security.