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Mon Dec 3, 2012, 09:15 AM

20 years on: Switzerland poised to keep EU at arm's length

Twenty years ago, the country was divided over joining the European Economic Area (EEA). Today the outcome would be different, experts say. Considering Switzerland’s close ties with the European Union, it makes for a complicated relationship.

Swiss voters came out in droves on December 6, 1992. In a country where voters are called to the polls four times per year, and participation rates are rarely more than half, turnout was historically high at 78.7 per cent. By putting the ratification of the EEA agreement to the people, the cabinet was seeking legitimacy through widespread participation.

The government got the participation it was looking for, but not the outcome. In the end, 50.3 per cent of Swiss voters said no to joining. Economics Minister Jean-Pascal Delamuraz famously called it a “black day” as the dream of a good part of the political class was crushed by some 20,000 votes.


The article goes well with this other short write-up:

To avoid confusion: The EEA is not the EU. The EEA, to put it simply, is the economic underpinning of the EU. Norway, for example, is part of the EEA but not the EU. Although 20 years ago, Swiss politicians were quite adamant about the fact that saying yes to the EEA was the first step or the "training camp" for joining the EU.

I was 9 years old in 1992 and had only spent about 2 years in Switzerland by that time. I remember how big of a deal it was. Everyone was talking about it, even us kids. The only other local political subject that I remember garnering this much controversy back then was the referendum on whether to buy overpriced FA18 hornets from the US.

I'm still on the fence on this. Currently, I see no reason for joining either the EEA or EU. Although I would like Switzerland to be more of an active and integrated part of the international community, I would like Switzerland to become a true part of Europe. But I don't see what I, as a citizen, stand to gain from such a move politically. I'm all against the insularity of Switzerland, and I hate Swiss exceptionalism jut as much as I hate american exceptionalism, and maybe the EU is the only solution to overcoming it. But then again, who would trade lofty cultural ideas about progress against hard-earned and well exercised political rights?

What would you do, if you were, like me, forced to decide on this issue?

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Reply 20 years on: Switzerland poised to keep EU at arm's length (Original post)
Democracyinkind Dec 2012 OP
tama Dec 2012 #1

Response to Democracyinkind (Original post)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 09:55 AM

1. Don't join


We we told that inside EU we had better chance to affect decisions than outside, but that was a lie. It's become totalitarian neoliberal bureaucratic monster without even pretending to be democratic in any way.

Swiss practice and example of direct and participatory grass roots democracy has much greater effect on Europe, EU and ETA from outside than inside. Rolf Búchi, Swiss academic now living in Finland and direct democracy activist told us that a Swiss citizen initiative and referendum against "European Wide Transport Network" or sumfink going through also Switzerland had a great positive impact on whole EU transport policies making it much less environmentally destructive.

And something tells me that Swiss direct democracy would be much less tolerated and effective inside, as EEA/EU top-down regulations would walk over it as they please.

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