Switzerland. In June, Switzerland approved the accession
to the EU's Schengen and Dublin conventions on closer
security cooperation. According to
countryaah, this means that Switzerland will be
part of the passport-free Schengen area. Parliament had
decided on accession in late 2004, but the conservative SVP
(Schweizerische Volkspartei) considered that neutrality was
threatened and forced a referendum on the issue. Almost 55%
voted in favor of the proposal. At the same time, just over
58% voted to allow gays to register partnerships.
In September, 56% of voters agreed to allow the Free
Movement Agreement to include the ten countries that became
new EU members in 2004. This opens the job market for the
new EU citizens and allows them to settle in Switzerland
provided they have work and can support themselves.
The Swiss are largely skeptical of opening their borders,
but the results in both referendums show that they recognize
the need to approach the EU, which surrounds the country and
is the largest trading partner. Later, however, they voted
in favor of a five-year ban on genetically modified crops,
despite the EU's earlier halting and the pressure on
Switzerland to do the same.
In August, the country was hit by violent downpours that
caused severe flooding. Several people were killed and in
the capital Bern, distressed people were evacuated by
helicopter from a roof. The material damage was estimated to
amount to billion.
In a June 2005 referendum, 54% of Swiss supported the
country's ratification of the Schengen agreement, which
involves close cooperation with the EU on security and
asylum matters. The ratification implies that Switzerland
abandons its systematic examination of the identity of the
occupants at its borders. on the other hand, the country has
access to a huge database covering the whole of Europe with
information on wanted and disappeared, immigrants and stolen
effects. The right-wing People's Party and the isolationist
campaign for an independent and neutral Switzerland had been
at the forefront of the campaign against Schengen. They had
collected the necessary signatures so that the referendum
had to be carried out and had argued that ratification would
open the country's borders to Europe's criminals and would
compromise its sovereignty. The supporters argued,
In September 2006, 68% in a referendum recognized the
tightening of asylum and emigration rules. The new rules
close the boundaries of a wide range of emigrants and
tighten the rules to obtain political asylum.
A period of heavy rainfall hit the country in August
2007. The rain brought floods affecting highways and rail
links. At least 3 were killed and a dozen injured during
In the October elections, the Swiss People's Party became
the country's largest with 29% of the vote. The party is led
by the heavily right-wing and xenophobic Christoph Blocher.
However, Blocher's extreme party is balanced in parliament
by a coalition between Social Democrats and the Greens. The
weeks following the election were marked by a power struggle
internally in Blocher's party. It has held two seats in the
Federal Council since 2003. The one occupied by Blocher
himself. Due. internal dispute in the party, however, the
more center-oriented part of the party managed to get SVP MP
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in second place, while her
corresponding "moderate" colleague Samuel Schmid took first
place. Blocher was thus out of the council. The SVP
parliamentary group responded again by excluding both.
After a strong xenophobic campaign, 57% of voters voted
in a referendum in November 2009 for a ban on minarets, and
for the removal of the four existing ones. By the same vote,
68% voted against a ban on arms and arms exports.
Compared to the rest of Europe, Switzerland was only hit
to a limited extent by the global economic crisis, which
seriously hit in 2008. The country's GDP fell by 1.5% in
2009 and unemployment rose to 4.4% - still below half the
level in the EU and the US. The first 3 quarters of the year
were in recession.