The Swiss Immigration Initiative of February 9, 2014

Swiss vote to curb immigration (, Feb. 9, 2014)

The Swiss wake-up call (Int'l New York Times, Feb. 24, 2014, p. 9)

U.S. and Swiss migration policy comparison

Swiss vote to limit immigration
Economist, February 15, 2014, p. 25



   A sampling of excerpted reactions and

   analyses to the vote and its aftermath

"In international negotiations, the Swiss political establishment often adheres to the following approach: First a reflexive no, then an epic internal political wrangle ending in indefinite inaction until foreign political action produces facts on the ground, which the Swiss authorities then quickly adjust to -with little or no input- and under notably less favorable and more expensive conditions."

(Anita Fetz -Baselstadt Ständerat 2003-19- describing general relations between Switzerland and the EU, "Streitgenossenschaft," NZZ, 19 June 2021, p. 21) 


"The non-implementation of the [Feb 2014] vote probably reinforces the

view that there is no having the cake and eating it too [with the new Begrenzungsintiative initiative of 27 Sept, 2020]."

  (Michael Surber, "Taschenpsielertrick der SVP," NZZ 18 August 2020, p. 9)  


"The new initiative [Begrenzungsintiative] was born from the view, held by

   many on the right, that the government's implementation of the successful

   9 February 2014 vote to limit mass immigration was a fudge that wasn't

   faithful to the will of the people." (Le News (Geneva), January 22, 2018)


"You can breath a sigh of relief...[our] initiative applied the necessary pressure [therefore "out of the cul-de-sac" initiative formally withdrawn]"

   (Franziska Barmettler quoted in NZZ, "Rasa-Initiaten sehen Ziel erreicht"    

     [ = "out of the cul-de-sac" initiative organizers declare victory ], Dec. 13, 2017 )


"Immigration is still too high. We must act."

   (Lukas Reimann, SVP Nationalrat, quoted in 20 Minuten, June 26, 2017.

    The article further states that the SVP wants to begin collecting signatures  

    for a "Begrenzungsintiative" (initiative to restrict migration) by year end.)


"The devil is in the detail."

   (Swiss EU Minister Michael Matthiessen interviewed in NZZ, March 23, 2017)


"By not launching a [new] referendum, the SVP has effectively acknowledged  that the Parliament's implementation law does not violate the Constitution."

    (Balthasar Glättli,  Febr. 8, 2017)


"We are not violating the Constitution, we are only adjusting it slightly. "

    (Kurt Fluri quoted in Tages-Anzeiger, after the Swiss Nationalrat's  

     decision in favor of "Inlandländervorrgang light"  -"priority for nationals"- 

     which would implement the 2014 vote only "minimally", Sept. 22, 2016)


"Above all, we must prevent attempts by the Left to substitute expanded labor market regulations in place of our initiative. "

    (Albert Rösti interviewed in Tages-Anzeiger, April 29, 2016)


"Stuck like a pickle in a sandwich, between internal and foreign policy."

 (René Schwok, quoted in Le Matin, following the Federal Council

 [Bundesrat's] announcement of a "safeguard clause" as a "Plan B"

  in lieu of either a deal with the EU or a new decision by voters.)

    (SWI  March 5, 2016)


"It is important that immigration be significantly reduced, in accordance with the voters' decision. There is talk of security clauses [instead of re-establishing quotas, as called for by the February 2014 vote]."

   (Interview with Christoph Blocher, "Blocher favors

     a new plebiscite," Sonntags Zeitung, November 22, 2015)


"The 'out of the cul-de-sac' initiative is not the most elegant way out...but can be seen as an emergency exit which would preserve the Bilateral I agreements [between Switzerland and the EU]."

   (Peter Morf, Finanz und Wirtschaft, October 23, 2015, referring to the

    "Raus aus der Sackgasse" initiative, introduced end of October, 2015,

    which would undo the constitutional amendments prescribed in Feb. 2014.)


"Switzerland tops the Global Competitiveness Index for the seventh consecutive year…Yet recent developments have created downside risks…Uncertainty about future immigration policy following the referendum against “mass immigration” could undermine Switzerland’s capacity to tap into the global talent pool needed to power its economy."

   (World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report, 2015-16, Sep. 30, 2015)


"In our democracy, anyone may gather signatures

  to try to change something."  

  (Christoph Mörgeli, Nationalrat, quoted in 20 Minuten, August 20, 2015, p. 2)


"The [Feb. 2014] initiative was approved thanks to mobilization of chronically mistrustful voters, not because of increased mistrust of voters generally."  

    (Berner Zeitung, April 24, 2015, referencing Claude Longchamp,

     lead author of Vox Analysis annual report 2014)


"Part and parcel of maintaining a stable regulatory environment is prompt clarity concerning implementation of the SVP initiative."  

    (Patrick Schellenbauer, interviewed in Tages-Anzeiger, April 17, 2015)


"Another referendum 'by the end of 2016, is inevitable.' "

   (Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General for the External Action

   Service, EU, qouted in La Liberté (Fribourg), April 9, 2015)


"The Bundesrat [Federal Council] is left with no choice other than going back to the voters...When wishes and reality clash, reality wins."   

    (Luciano Ferrarri, Tages-Anzeiger, March 31, 2015)


"I think we will have another [vote]. That is my opinion, not [that] of my  colleagues...but personally, I'm sure we cannot do it another way."   

    (Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Swiss Bundesrat (Federal Council)

      SRF, February 3, 2015 )


"Unfortunately, a razor-thin majority jumped through the hoop which the SVP held out [but] if they want to, the Swiss can jump back through it again." 

  (Reinhard Bütikofer, head of the Green Party in the EU Parliament,

   quoted in Zürichsee-Zeitung, December 18,  p. 21)


"[In a potential] outer circle [of EU] integration à la carte...there would be place for a Switzerland partially integrated in various fields, but without free international movement in the labor market." 

  (Res Strehle in Tages-Anzeiger, December 1, p. 2, commenting on

   defeat of the Nov. 30 "Eco-pop" initiative (26% voted yes) )


"It takes two to tango."  

  (Tages-Anzeiger, October 9, pp. 2-3, re the "master of the splits", State- 

   Secretary and Migration Office head Mario Gattiker, negotiating with the EU)


"Under current requirements, the Bundesrat [Federal Council] must have the freedom to seek a path to negotiation, even if doing so leads to compromise on the immigration question."

  (Bundesrat Ueli Maurer, interviewed in Sonntags-Zeitung, May 4, p. 10)


“A way out of the impasse could be for the Parliament to enact a constitutional amendment [continuing the EU-Switzerland bilateral agreements] which would thereby automatically trigger a new referendum. 'If the voters say yes, then that would give the bilateral deals priority and require curtailment of the immigration initiative.' "

   (Schweiz am Sonntag, March 9, p. 2, quoting Felix Gutzwiller.)


"Cross-border personal mobility [Personenfreizügigkeit] was a decree from above, not an achievement of [EU] citizens...[Meanwhile] the [Swiss] system has changed. The popular initiative has been transformed from a political instrument into a propaganda instrument."

  (Charles Lewinksy, Tages-Anzeiger, March 8, p. 10)


"With a distinctive political flair, the initiative’s supporters harvested long-cultivated fears. Voters felt threatened by immigration, and opponents proved unable to effectively counter worries brewing well before the election. Pointing to diffuse risks of punishments from the EU failed to directly hit concerns spreading across half the voters."

 (Markus Freitag and Maya Ackermann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, March 6, p. 15)


"The trouble over migration within Europe has been brewing for months, but it finally took a small, very rich country outside the union, with a dreamlike unemployment rate of 3.5 percent and a tradition of politically incorrect referendums, to force us to take a hard look at this crucial issue."

    (Sylvie Kauffmann, New York Times Int'l, February 23)


“It is difficult to fathom why no Plan B was prepared.”

      (Heino von Prondzynski, Sonntags-Zeitung, February 23, p. 44)


“Even before it becomes clear how [a new] quota system will function in concrete terms, jobs are going to be lost, including those of Swiss citizens.

    (Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Sunday edition), February 16, p. 38)


“It is logical that one be allowed to revisit a decision based

on a false assessment.”

   (Basel parliament member Rudolf Rechsteiner, advocating a new initiative,

    Tages-Anzeiger, February 13, p. 4.)


“Wash me but don't get me wet: You can vote in accordance with this principle, but you cannot implement policies based on it.” 

    (Martin Ebel, Tages-Anzeiger, February 13, p. 23)


“Never before has a third country [neither in EU nor fully outside it] destroyed so much goodwill in such a short time.”

   (Tages-Anzeiger, February 13, p. 2 reporting on the reactions

    of EU Commission President José Manual Barroso, who earned

    an MS in Economics from the University of Geneva, and "has

    always considered himself a friend of Switzerland.")


“Direct democracy gives people the chance to vent their frustrations. But it is also a bit like Russian roulette: sometimes there is a bullet in the chamber."

   (Financial Times, February 13)


"Nothing is more irritating to government officials in Europe than citizens who are able to say no."

   (Basler Zeitung, February 12)


“The [Swiss] government gives the impression that beneath a technocratic analysis of the situation, it is hiding its own bewilderment."

   (A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Swiss Nationalrat (lower

    house of the Swiss Parliament), Tages-Anzeiger, February 12, p. 3.)


“Until new quotas go into effect [businesses] can still recruit more workers from aboard. This is a fully legal loophole under the terms of the initiative."

   (Zurichsee-Zeitung,  February 12, p. 1)


“A new system will apply only to foreigners seeking to immigrate after that new system goes into effect.”

   Website of the Federal Justice and Police Department

   (Tages-Anzeiger, February 12, p. 2)


“I have a bad feeling.”

   (President of the Swiss Farmers Association, February 12)


“The Swiss have scored an own goal.”

   (Reader letters, Tages-Anzeiger, February 12, 2014)


“Now that the bilateral agreements are threatened with collapse, the Bundesrat [heads of the executive branch of the Swiss federal government] must again put explicitly on the political agenda the objective of Switzerland joining the EU, under the most favorable conditions that can be arranged.”

   (Neue Europäische Bewegung Schweiz. Press release, February 9, 2014)


“This is a turning point for immigration policy. Finally, Switzerland can control its immigration again.”

    (Toni Brunner, President, Schweizerische Volkspartei [SVP],

     Neue Zürcher Zeitung,  February 10, 2014, p. 7)


A clickable [] Euler diagram showing the relationships between  various multinational European organisations and agreements.
A clickable [] Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational European organisations and agreements.

Leonhard Euler, Swiss European


                            This page last updated 19 June, 2021