Switzerland is a very small country. It doesn’t often make it into our news. So when the Beeb airs a report about events in Switzerland, it either means that they’ve done something astonishingly commendable, or astonishingly asinine. Yesterday, unfortunately, was the latter.
As a reformed anti-EUer, who has grown out of that phase, I feel marginally qualified to express an opinion on yesterday’s Swiss vote to curb EU immigration. As an Auslander, of course, I am biased on this vote, and not having citizenship here, I don’t have the right to express my opinion through voting (which is fair enough, I suppose.) Thank God, then, for freedom to express yourself on the internet. Because this vote really irks me. This is not going to turn into a political blog, but I can’t let this one pass by.
The terms “patriotism” and “nationalism” are often confused, or given the same meaning. There is a difference: while patriotism refers to a love for one’s nation, and the nation’s values, nationalism is more concerned with the preservation of the nation’s heritage. Nationalism has come to be associated with far right parties across the world: we talk about the British National Party, rather than the British Patriotic Party. I am a patriot, but not a nationalist.
I’m not going to go into the particulars of the vote on my own, I don’t know all of the facts, or have the motivation to look them all up for myself and dissect and analyse them. I am, however, going to point you to >> the blog of Diccon Bewes. << He sets things out very well, and although biased in the same way that I am, explains everything much more dispassionately, and indeed eloquently than I can.
There are a couple of things that drew my attention in this article. The first is that only about 56% of voters turned out to vote. If voter turnout patterns are anything like they are in the UK (and I don’t know if they are, but it seems a fair assumption,) then a large percentage of young people (who are probably more liberally-minded and forward-looking than the older generation of voters, those who move with the times, and, like populations in most Western countries, accept that mixing cultures and peoples is a fact of modern life) probably didn’t get off their Hintern to vote. Since the effects of this vote will probably not start to be felt straight away, but in a number of years when formalities and bureaucracies have been ironed out and teething problems sorted, it will be they that feel the consequences rather than the older crop of Swiss.
The other thing is that the areas where the vote was most decisively in favour of abandoning the bi-lateral agreement with the EU were areas where voters have least contact with immigrants. In cities, where more immigrants live, and the benefits of free movement are felt, the vote was more strongly in the “no” camp – no, that is, to abandoning the links with the EU. Since it takes a good 12 years to be “granted” Swiss citizenship, and have the right to vote, we can count the opinions of recent immigrants who might be more likely to recognise the benefits of free movement.
I don’t mean to tar all Swiss citizens with the same brush – only 23% actually voted for the curb on EU immigration: since only 56% of the electorate voted, and only half of them voted to ditch the free-movement agreement with the EU. (Ok, 50.3%. Whether that really counts as a majority is a moot point.)
If I was looking for jobs here under the regulations that are likely to come in, my boss would have to prove that he couldn’t find a Swiss for the job (which he probably could.) I am also aware that I met most of my best friends only due to the free movement of people within the EU that still encounters opposition in Britain, and has been completely fought off here. My life experiences so far would be considerably different, and much poorer, if it weren’t for the free movement.
And for my last point. Any policy that is supported by this man, must be questionable!