Poll: majority backs Swiss funding for European border agency

Frontex border guards rescue people near the Greek island of Lesbos in 2015. Keystone / Santi Palacios

There is strong support in favour of Switzerland continuing to fund the European border and coastguard agency Frontex, according to an opinion poll. This is one of three issues being put to a nationwide vote on May 15, alongside consent for organ donations and a levy on video-streaming firms.

This content was published on April 1, 2022 - 06:00

Around 63% of Swiss voters support Switzerland’s ongoing financial contribution to FrontexExternal link, according to an opinion poll published on Friday by the GfS Bern research institute commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – SWI’s parent company.

The poll carried out in mid-March showed that 29% of voters were against the idea and 8% were still undecided.

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Created in 2004, Frontex patrols the external borders of Europe's Schengen area, fights cross-border crime and manages migratory flows. The agency is financed by the European Union and by EU non-members who are signatories of the Schengen Agreement: Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Switzerland’s financial contribution, which is proportional to its gross domestic product (GDP), is due to rise from CHF24 million ($26 million) in 2021 to CHF61 million in 2027, according to calculations by the Swiss governmentExternal link. This is in line with European plans to strengthen the agency following the 2015 immigration crisis. 

Supporters of the Frontex proposal argue that the European agency will need greater resources in the future and stronger protection measures at the continent’s external borders.

Criticism of the proposal comes from some left-wing parties including the Greens and the Social Democrats, which helped initiate the referendum, and among the right-wing People’s Party.

The referendum committee does not want Switzerland to fund Frontex because it views the agency as a symbol of a migration policy based on isolation and violence. It criticises the “militarisation of borders” and the “criminalisation of migration”.

The vote poll reveals widespread support for the Frontex project from across the political spectrum. The “Yes” camp has managed to put forward “security-related arguments that are convincing in the current unstable international context,” said a GfS Bern pollster.

Strong support for “presumed consent” for organ donations

The survey published on Friday also found that a referendum seeking the adoption of a new definition of consent for organ donationsExternal link in Switzerland also has considerable support six weeks ahead of voting day.

Currently in Switzerland, it is only possible to remove organs from a dead person if they have explicitly given their own consent beforehand, or, if there is no personal statement of consent, their relatives must give their agreement after the person's death. On May 15, voters will decide if they want to reverse this concept so that it can be presumed everyone consents to organ donation. Those who do not consent to organ donation must therefore have to express their preference while still alive.

The poll found that 63% of Swiss voters support the proposed change regarding consent for organ donation, while 34% are against and 3% are undecided.

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The wide support for the change comes from supporters of all political parties, with the exception of those from the right-wing People’s Party.

Around 84% of those surveyed believe there are too few organ donations in Switzerland, the poll showed.

The “Yes” camp enjoys a comfortable advantage and a “reversal of this majority would be a big surprise”, according to the GfS Bern research institute.

“Lex Netflix” also has many fans

The pollsters also found strong support for an amendment to the legislation on culture and film production, also known as “Lex Netflix”. This legal change will oblige streaming platforms to invest up to 4% of their revenue from Switzerland in Swiss films and TV series.  

According to the poll, 59% of voters back this proposal, drawn up by the government and parliament. Around 32% of people oppose the idea, while 9% are still undecided.

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The youth wings of Switzerland's centre-right and right-wing parties have joined forces to fight this new legislation. The referendum committee is composed of young Radical Liberals, the Liberal Greens and supporters of the People's Party. It is supported by an organisation for consumer advocacy in German-speaking Switzerland and the private-sector television lobby (TeleSwiss). 

People’s Party supporters remain strongly against the proposal, the poll found. However, 49% of Radical Liberals support the legal change, while 43% are against.

The “Yes” camp seems to convince voters that the amendment would mean an additional CHF18 million for the local film industry and increased diversity. However, a small majority is worried that the change may lead to higher subscription fees for streaming platforms.

This final result is not clear, despite this early support, says GfS Bern. People have still not made up their minds on this issue and the survey “reveals that support is based on relatively fragile foundations,” say the pollsters.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 6,728 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country and among the expatriate Swiss community for the first of two nationwide surveys. 

The survey is based on online responses as well as telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, and was carried out from March 14 to 28. 

The margin of error is 2.8%. 

The poll was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) - SWI’s parent company - and carried out by the Gfs Bern research institute. 

Translated from French/sb

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