Three-fifths of Swiss back draft EU framework deal

Swiss foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis (right) with Robert Balzaretti, the chief Swiss negotiator with the EU. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

In backing the current draft framework agreement, public opinion seems to fly in the face of political ambivalence about the deal, a nationwide survey has found.

This content was published on March 31, 2019 minutes

According to the poll, published in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, 17% of Swiss say that they would definitely approve the deal, while 43% declared that they probably would; on the other side, 15% were definitely against and another 20% leaned that way.

The results come as something of a surprise following months of political criticism of the deal, as well as frequent statements by high-profile politicians that if the deal was to be put before the people in its current form, it would never be accepted.

It especially reveals inconsistencies on the left: while Social Democrat President Christian Levrat has been sceptical, and his party undecided, some 80% of his party’s voters back the accord, the survey found. Green, Radical-Liberal, and Christian Democrat voters are also largely in favour.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party, who again reiterated their firm opposition to the deal this weekend (see below), was the exception: three-fifths of its voters are against.

Yes, reluctantly

This said, noted Urs Bieri of the GfS Bern group, who conducted the survey, the approval of voters remains “grudging”: what people really want is a continuation of current relations with Brussels, which are grounded on a complex web of bilateral agreements.

If given the choice, respondents’ second-favourite option would be a paring down of relations to a simple free trade agreement with the EU, he said; while the framework deal option, which unites the bilateral deals under a broader accord, comes in third.

The ‘extreme’ options – actually joining the EU, on the one hand, or breaking relations completely, on the other – enjoy very little support from a pragmatic Swiss public, the survey found.

The draft deal, which was put to consultation by the government last December, has been the cause of years of complex and sometimes acrimonious discussions. Brussels has given Switzerland until July this year to decide whether it wants to accept the current deal.

The GfS survey for the NZZ am Sonntag was commissioned by Interpharma (an umbrella group representing the pharma industry) and is based on responses from 2,000 citizens in February and March of this year.

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