Support falls for Swiss-EU bilateral path

The poll finds divided opinions about the EU among Swiss. Keystone

New survey results have shown that the so-called bilateral approach guiding Swiss relations with the European Union (EU) has lost some support among citizens. The numbers in favour of an all-or-nothing strategy have risen.

This content was published on November 13, 2017 minutes and agencies

The survey figures, collected by the GfS Bern research institute, show that while 81% last year supported the government’s bilateral approach to relations with the EU (seeking to negotiate a patchwork of bilateral treaties covering various areas of cooperation), the number has now fallen to 60%.

And of the 40% who profess to be against current policy, sharp divisions exist. Some 28% of this group want to cut off negotiations with Brussels completely, compared with 19% last year. On the other hand, 21%, double that of last year, advocate joining the EU outright.

Switzerland already has around 100 bilateral agreements with the EU covering everything from the free movement of people, policing the continent’s borders to transport, trade and research.

Meanwhile, the number of those who say that they would support joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – the free trade and movement arm of the EU that Switzerland narrowly voted to shun in 1992 – has remained steady at 51%, a one-point increase from last year.

Swissness in vogue

Gfs.bern’s Lukas Golder told Swiss public television, SRF, that they had identified a clear trend towards a reassertion of the Swiss, rather than European, identity.

“There is a pride in the land that is increasing,” he said. “Even the identity as Swiss is increasing. This is a new phenomenon. Above all, the EU is losing its integrative power.”

Golder pointed to the “huge challenges” faced by Europe in recent years, such as the Greek crisis and the stumbling single currency. Seeing this, he said, “we have the feeling that the path of independence and neutrality is the path to success for Switzerland, while that of the EU, as presented today, is not a solution.”

According to the survey, which polled 1,000 Swiss citizens in June and July 2017, just 11% said that they felt a belonging to a shared space with the EU.

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