– 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.

Bulletin - - Contents -

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.

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