Therefore, the victory of the populists Mélenchon and Le Pen is bad news for Switzerland
The French left and right populists are against the free movement of people with the EU. This will make concessions from Brussels in bilateral relations even more difficult.
There have been statements in the Federal Council: In order to get the deadlocked negotiations with the EU out of the stalemate, it is now up to Brussels to move and show flexibility. The state government agreed to this at their European withdrawal at the end of last week.
However, the fact that Brussels will make significant concessions to Switzerland remains a pious wish. That is unlikely to happen. The reason for this can be seen in the example of the parliamentary elections in France, which ended in a deserted way for President Emmanuel Macron.
SVP and trade unions: related in the spirit of Le Pen and Mélenchon
The big winners are the populist polar parties on the left and right. Former Marxist Jean-Luc Mélenchon and right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen are not only united by their EU skepticism. But also the fact that they basically want the same thing as the Federal Council. And that’s bad news for Switzerland.
Le Pen has for years fought against immigration from the EU as part of the free movement of people. It is not just about the debate known in Switzerland under the SVP struggle concept of “social parasites”, ie immigration to the welfare state. But also about presumed shear effects on the labor market.
This is where Le Pen finds himself with his left-wing opponent Mélenchon. He also wants to protect local workers from the “neoliberal EU”. Like the Swiss trade unions with their boss Pierre-Yves Maillard, who seem to be finding a source of inspiration in the French people’s tribune.
If the EU gives way to Switzerland, hell will break loose in France
The Federal Council has, for fear of a political conflict, taken the position of the trade unions on wage protection and the bourgeois parties to the Union Citizens’ Directive and thus the access to social security. Domestic policy limits Switzerland’s opportunities for action in Brussels.
The problem is that the EU also has its own internal policy. If she gave in to Switzerland now, hell would break loose in France. This also explains why France is always the toughest in Brussels against Switzerland.
But there are similar constellations in Austria, where the unions take Switzerland as a role model and the extreme right-wing FPÖ uses the same anti-EU will as the SVP. In Germany, the Swiss AfD will completely dissolve the EU. And in the background, the Brexit trauma is simmering, causing the EU to take a more united stance towards third countries such as Switzerland.
The debate in the EU does not help the Swiss position, but damages it
The Bundeshaus says that European domestic policy is not our business. The central argument that the Federal Council repeatedly uses is that Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Therefore, Brussels can not ask us to follow the same obligations as a Member State.
That’s not wrong. But this coin has one drawback. And this is how it sounds from Brussels: Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Therefore, she can not feel better than those who belong to the club. It is the basis of the “cherry picker” accusation against the richest country on the continent.
What’s next? If at some point Bern wants to reach an agreement with Brussels, perhaps more thought should be given to the domestic political situation in the EU. Anyone who thinks that because conflicts similar to those in Switzerland are erupting in some EU countries that this will help the Federal Council in bilateral relations, is committing a fatal mistake.
The opposite is true: Europeans must fend off their own left- and right-wing populists. They will therefore be careful not to make concessions to Switzerland in precisely those areas that are very sensitive to them. This is especially true of the European Commission, which must keep things together.
Conclusion: The bilateral relationship does not take place in a vacuum, but is embedded in the pan-European context. The search for compromises therefore requires solutions that are acceptable not only to Switzerland but also to the EU internally.