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Schadenfreude – The EU’s Swiss problem, best not to mention it

Brussels and member states with ‘political’ problems around EU migration have been strangely quiet over the Swiss decision to limit freedom of movement of people. Our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude asks why

The multilingual landlocked Swiss in the very heart of Europe do not like foreign entanglements. Their motto is ‘we want to stay as we are’. They did not join the European Economic Area, which has a free trade agreement with the European Union. Instead, they signed a collection of agreements with the EU giving them the facilities they wanted but without surrendering their sovereignty.

All seemed well until intra-European migration became an issue. The Swiss decided to cancel the agreement on freedom of movement of people and placed quota restrictions on immigration from members of the union. They are clever strategists, realising that within the EU there is growing disquiet about intra-immigration.

This explains why there has been a hush. Normally when a party to an agreement secedes, the other side retaliates or at least says something. But the EU, in the form of the European Commission, does not know what to do. It mutters about pick and choose but does nothing.

The member states, including those with a political problem over EU immigration, like Germany and the United Kingdom, are also silenced. They cannot criticise the Swiss but cannot applaud them either.

It looks as if the only recourse is inaction. The particular Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement of people is gone; the others roll on. There is no pick and choose, except perhaps a little bit for certain parties.

  1. The whole point about “inaction” is already proven wrong by some recent news: as from next academic year onwards, Swiss students are excluded from the EU’s Erasmus exchange programme. And more will follow, without a doubt.
    And how can voters in a referendum collectively be described as “clever strategists”? That is by no means obvious to me either.

    Comment by Pieter on February 27, 2014 at 6:37 am
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