Sunday, June 05, 2005

Clear but Divided Swiss Result

Avoiding to cut itself completely off from the rest of Europe, the Swiss voted in todays referendum to endorse the agreement that makes it possible for them to join the Schengen area of passport-free travel in Europe.

It was a clear result. 58 % voted Yes, and 42 % accordingly voted No.

As usual, there was a distinct split along cultural lines. The French cantons voted very clearly in favour and the Italian canton of Ticino voted against. That's the usual pattern on issues like these.

The German-speaking canton were more divided. The business hub of Zurich and its related small canton of Zug voted in favour, as did the large canton of Bern. But the hearthland of the Alps and Eastern Switzerland voted against in the way they usually do.

Another referendum in the autumn, which will extend labour market freedoms in Switzerland also for those coming from the new EU members states, is likely to be thougher.

The Swiss have lost their old self-confidence. Isolation not longer works - but for many integration is too uncertain an alternative.

The nation is drifting.