The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Pro-European alliance wants to enshrine EU treaties in the constitution

An alliance of pro-European organizations wants to enshrine active European cooperation in the constitution and thus obtain an EU referendum by the people and the cantons. The collection of signatures for the Europe initiative was launched on Tuesday.

The federal popular initiative "For a strong Switzerland in Europe (Europe Initiative)" aims to create a new constitutional article on active European integration. The text of the initiative is brief and is limited to foreign policy objectives in Europe. How these goals are implemented is left to the politicians.

"The Europe Initiative does not cement the bilateral approach, nor does it call for accession to the EU and EEA," said Thomas Cottier, professor emeritus of European law, to the media in Bern. However, it is intended to provide a tailwind for the ongoing negotiations with the EU and serve as a backup in the event that the negotiated solution to the package approach fails in parliament or at the ballot box.

However, the scope of the Europe Initiative goes beyond the further development of the bilateral agreements, said Cottier. The aim is to secure and develop participation in the freedoms of the European single market and other areas of European cooperation, in particular culture, education and research, as well as climate protection.

"We are going on the offensive"

If the people and cantons vote yes, the Federal Council would have to conclude the necessary agreements with the EU "without delay". After the negotiations, it would have to submit the result to Parliament for approval within a year. At the same time, the Federal Council would have to take measures to ensure that the European principle of equal working conditions for equal work in the same place is implemented effectively and permanently in Switzerland.

"Switzerland is at a crossroads: do we want to provincialize or be an active part of Europe and the world?" said Sanija Ameti, Co-President of Operation Libero, speaking to the media in Bern. These questions require a fundamental decision that only the electorate can make.

"We are tackling the elephant in the room, we are going on the offensive," says Ameti. Until now, the opponents of Europe have dominated the debate. "That's over now." One aim of the initiative is also to mobilize the pro-European camp and stop the dictatorship of the obstructionists. The electorate has already voted in favor of strong relations with the EU several times. Now it is a matter of a long-term decision.

The so-called European Alliance includes political players such as Operation Libero, the Greens, the European Movement Switzerland, the Swiss Student Union and the association La Suisse en Europe.

Comprehensive cooperation

"We need to enshrine rapprochement with the EU in the constitution in order to protect it against attacks from right-wing populists," said Nicolas Walder, Geneva National Councillor for the Greens. Thanks to the initiative, Switzerland and the EU should also move closer together in new areas that the Federal Council is not yet negotiating. Walder cited the European Green Deal, with which the EU is driving forward climate protection across Europe, as an example.

Switzerland's supposed sovereignty is increasingly becoming a sham, said Kathrin Amacker, former National Councillor of the Center Party and President of the Switzerland-Europe Platform. "We are largely adopting EU law without having been involved in drafting it."

According to Raphaël Bez, Secretary General of the European Movement Switzerland, the Europe Initiative lays the long-term foundation for Switzerland to have a say in what affects it.

Correcting political failure

The initiators have until October 2, 2025 to collect the 100,000 signatures required for the initiative to come to fruition. They are optimistic that they will achieve this, although many established parties and business associations have only reacted vaguely to the announcement of the initiative.

It is important to differentiate between politics and the people, said Cottier. "We are addressing the people and not the established political parties." The purpose of a popular initiative is to correct political failure.

©Keystone/SDA

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