The Swiss are Resisting EU Domination in the Name of Liberty and Self-Determination Last Wednesday, the Swiss National Council voted to withdraw the country’s dormant application to join the European Union (EU). A clear majority of Swiss voters are not interested in joining the EU. And no democratically sanctioned application was ever submitted. However, it has been “in the drawer” for quite some time. The seven members of the Swiss Federal Council in 2016 (not depicted: chancellor Walter Thurnherr, who “assists” the council). Some explanation is in order for people not familiar with the Swiss political system, which will make it easier to understand the nature of the inner-Swiss political conflict. In effect, the federal council is a “collective head of state”. Its members are elected by parliament, and are supposed represent a cross-section of Switzerland’s regions, political parties and linguistic groups. The departments are chosen by its members based on their seniority. On average, council members tend to serve for 10 years, as they are usually reelected (it has only happened four times since 1848 that a federal councilor was not reelected; some have even served for 30 years). Its members cannot be recalled during a legislative period.
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The Swiss are Resisting EU Domination in the Name of Liberty and Self-Determination
Last Wednesday, the Swiss National Council voted to withdraw the country’s dormant application to join the European Union (EU). A clear majority of Swiss voters are not interested in joining the EU. And no democratically sanctioned application was ever submitted. However, it has been “in the drawer” for quite some time.
The seven members of the Swiss Federal Council in 2016 (not depicted: chancellor Walter Thurnherr, who “assists” the council). Some explanation is in order for people not familiar with the Swiss political system, which will make it easier to understand the nature of the inner-Swiss political conflict. In effect, the federal council is a “collective head of state”. Its members are elected by parliament, and are supposed represent a cross-section of Switzerland’s regions, political parties and linguistic groups. The departments are chosen by its members based on their seniority. On average, council members tend to serve for 10 years, as they are usually reelected (it has only happened four times since 1848 that a federal councilor was not reelected; some have even served for 30 years). Its members cannot be recalled during a legislative period. Due to the fact that the Federal Council’s membership is based on the “concordance democracy” principle, the three strongest parties in parliament traditionally supply two councilors each, and the fourth strongest party one councilor (the so-called “magical formula”). Decisions of the council have to be supported in public even by council members who voted against them. Given this principle, the Federal Council can easily be at odds with the parliamentary majority. The SVP has only two council members, and it is a good bet that the four votes in favor of joining the EU came from the socialists and federal democrats. However, the council is not empowered to ignore the outcome of referendums or parliamentary decisions: it is merely the executive. As such, it can issue recommendations and propose draft laws. This form of executive is modeled after the archons of the polis of Greek antiquity, and is the only such surviving system in the world today. Click to enlarge.
Recently, the motion to withdraw that unwelcome piece of paper was finally submitted by the Swiss Peoples’ Party (SVP). The SVP won a majority in the parliamentary elections held last October. 116 out of 200 MPs supported the motion. It is also worth noting that last year, Iceland withdrew its application to join the EU as well.
Not many people know or remember that back in 1992, the Swiss Federal Council held a secret meeting where 4 of its 7 members approved an official application to join the EU. In what I consider a cloak-and-dagger operation, the members of the Federal Council decided to approve the membership application while neither informing their own political parties, nor the people of Switzerland.
This isolated act, which a large number of Swiss citizens considered an act of treason, has finally and officially been eliminated this week. Some politicians argue that the motion to repeal the application was ‘unnecessary’ to begin with, because the Swiss people made it very clear in the past that joining the EU was not an option. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that this motion to officially dismiss the application constitutes an important symbolic act.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed a noticeable shift in Swiss political sentiment regarding the EU. The Swiss public has repeatedly refused to accept anything that could compromise Swiss sovereignty and independent decision-making. It refuses to adhere to another entity’s rules, the EU included. On several occasions, the Swiss people have voted against recommendations of the Federal Council.
Right-wing, pro-freedom parties like the SVP are gaining more and more ground. Switzerland’s citizens understand that the long legacy of Swiss independence and neutrality could be in jeopardy should the country fall under the EU’s umbrella.
Campaign logo of the SVP (Swiss People’s Party, also know as Democratic Union of the Center in the Italian and French-speaking parts of Switzerland). The inscription reads “Swiss quality” and “the party of the middle class”.
To Serve Rather Than Rule
The SVP’s message is clear: the more centralization and the more federal government influence, the more the confederate system of Switzerland will be dismantled and infringements on personal freedom will increase.
What this stance underlines is a deep-rooted understanding that the people of Switzerland remain the ultimate sovereign, as opposed to their elected government representatives and professional bureaucrats. Politicians should serve one purpose only, and that is to serve the people, not to rule them.
The last parliamentary elections in November of 2015 showed that more and more people have come to understand that a more conservative and freedom-oriented policy is in their best interest. The logical conclusion, therefore, is to support the call for less state intervention and more individual freedom.
Historically, it is worth going back to the last world war when Europe was struggling against the emerging – and later prevailing – fascist movement. Geographically, Switzerland was positioned in the center of that war, making it rather vulnerable to possible military attacks if it did not act prudently.
The Swiss political leadership at the time was headed by Marcel Pilet-Golaz, who was affiliated with the then dominant Free Democratic Party. He struggled to balance the demands of the German National Socialist Regime with the political will of the Swiss public; his decisions were often disputed and criticized.
Federal Council member Marcel Pilet-Golaz, who was the federal president and foreign minister of Switzerland during the Nazi era. Note that his Adolph mustache was simply considered trendy at the time, it does not indicate that he was a Nazi (he was in fact a member of the Free Democratic party). He did however give an ominous speech in 1940 after a French-German armistice had been declared following the Nazi occupation of France. The speech remains infamous to this day for its conspicuous failure to mention terms like “freedom”, “liberalism”, “democracy” and “self-determination”, while containing terms like “sacrifice” and phrases like “adjustment to new facts on the ground”, “inner rebirth” and assorted other sibylline messages. Pilet-Golaz primarily tried not to draw Hitler’s ire, as he presumably feared that Switzerland could otherwise be on the Wehrmacht’s menu next.
Photo via oltnertagblatt.ch
Like the Federal Council of today, he ignored the people and ruled according to what he thought was best for them. But it was the Swiss public that took a remarkable stance during these difficult times with the emergence of what was known as “Geistige Landesverteidigung” (Spiritual Defense of the Nation). This movement was significant, in that it helped shape the Swiss sense of social cohesion and strong political will in its defense of the country’s independence from both military takeover and the socio-political influence of the Nazi era.
From my research on the matter, I have come to the conclusion that a successful resistance movement can only take shape with natural leaders who can win the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens. One of these leaders was Federal Council member Rudolf Minger, who was a founding member of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB), which evolved into today’s SVP, and at the same time, the first farmer elected into the Federal Council.
He served as head of the department of defense from 1930 – 1940. Without him and our great General Henri Guisan, a true Swiss patriot and a clear and determined opponent of the Nazis, I’m sure the history of Switzerland would have been quite different.
Rudolf Minger, founder of the SVP’s predecessor party
Photo via inside-bern.ch
Conflict with the EU and the Federal Council
That brings us back to the situation at hand. Switzerland has certainly benefited from its free trade arrangements with the EU. But the dispute over immigration that emerged a few years ago has intensified. Ultimately, the Swiss felt that the social cohesion that has developed among the members of its population was at risk. Now the EU has escalated its position towards Switzerland: they only want to allow free trade if Switzerland does not limit immigration.
On the one hand, the Swiss public is well aware of the costs of opening its borders and is not willing to compromise its security and interests. On the other hand, the Swiss are concerned about the potential implications if the EU actually carries out its threat and restricts future trade with Switzerland. However the EU and Germany, in particular, are benefiting considerably from free trade with Switzerland as well. In the end, I am confident that the Swiss will find a solution that will allow for both free trade and self-determined immigration controls.
Switzerland is currently a member of EFTA, the European Free Trade Association (together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein – the countries shown in dark green on this map. The countries in light green are former EFTA members that have joined the EU in the meantime).
Members of the Federal Council and the Federal Court are ignoring the peoples’ will, fully convinced that they have the power and the wisdom to overrule those they have sworn to serve. On Friday, the Federal Council submitted its own draft law to parliament to limit immigration.
Even though the Swiss have expressed their will to limit immigration in a referendum two years ago, the Federal Council wants to salvage Switzerland’s ties with the EU. It appears that the government’s wishes are taking precedence over the will of the people.
This is a critical moment for Switzerland, for the question is: who is the true sovereign here? The Swiss constitution states it clearly, but the authorities are attempting to openly disregard it. However, the battle is not over yet: the trend towards increasingly centralized power over the past 20 years has been broken – the public is well aware that it does not fit the Swiss mentality and culture.
In fact, I believe that the destructive way in which the EU elite is ruling provides a strong incentive for the Swiss to uphold their constitutional rights and claim to sovereignty.
A sinking ship?
Cartoon by Stephane Peray
Swiss Property Rights: A Model for All Free People
This brings us to the core element of Switzerland’s political dispensation: the respect for private property. The country’s political system, which embraces direct democracy and decentralization and upholds personal liberties extends into the financial/economic sphere as well. The state may not simply expropriate or confiscate people’s assets.
This is why Switzerland has built a strong reputation for private banking, offshore investment and the creation of independent storage facilities for gold and precious metals that operate outside the traditional banking system, which in turn offer even more security.
Swiss private banking stands above its counterparts in the traditional banking realm for a number of reasons. First and foremost, real private banks operating under Swiss law in most cases have a general partner who has unlimited liability for misconduct.
This serves as an indirect protection of wealth as it ensures that private bankers do not take overly risky investment decisions on behalf of their clients. Beyond that, private banks are not involved in credit creation and fractional reserve banking, their lending is collateralized and therefore less exposed to systemic risks, which are extremely high nowadays.
Despite potential threats, the Swiss are notoriously stubborn in asserting their sovereignty over state institutions. Property rights are safeguarded against confiscation without due cause of action and process of law. It is therefore no surprise that the Swiss are stockpiling privately held cash and have taken the lead in the global rankings in this respect, despite regulations barring financial institutions from such actions.
The Swiss have resisted the the move toward a cashless society, as is inter alia evidenced by the relative disdain in which payments by credit card are held by the country’s retail sector. Switzerland’s unique democratic system has truly empowered its citizens with the tools to resist control by outsiders.
1,000 Swiss franc notes – now that the ECB is “considering” withdrawing the 500 euro banknote under the absurd pretext of “fighting crime” (while in reality destroying even more of what little is left of financial privacy), the 1,000 CHF note has undoubtedly a bright future and stands to become even more popular.
Resistance Against the Establishment: A Global Movement
We can see that tensions are growing in other regions all over the world as well. Currently all eyes are on the Brexit referendum, which is held in Great Britain on June 23; a British exit from the EU is strongly advocated by the UK Independence Party (UKIP). In the wake of Switzerland withdrawing its EU application, SVP MP Lukas Reimann has recently made an interesting statement in this context:
“This is a clear and historical message from the Swiss parliament to British voters. We wish you the best of luck for Brexit. These days, Switzerland is called Britzerland because the Swiss people support the Brexit.”
SVP MP Lukas Reimann: proposes to temporarily rename Switzerland “Britzerland” to show its support for Brexit.
Photo credit: Samuel Trümpy / Keystone
Even within Germany, the economic leader of the EU, resistance to EU membership is growing. The Alternative for Germany party (AfD) emerged in 2013 advocating Swiss-style democracy with a stance of mild euro-skepticism. Since then its popularity has increased and it has pushed back further against the EU, inter alia advocating the dissolution of the euro-zone.
The establishment often portrays the AfD as a neo-fascist party, based on its anti-immigration stance and its contempt for political correctness. In reality, the party is gaining popularity because it promises to deliver what people are yearning for: to install the people as the true sovereign over the political establishment.
The primary election cycle in the U.S. has proven to be another battleground where the population is weary of the establishment and its increasing consolidation of power. The success of Republican candidate Donald Trump makes clear that the trend of growing government encroachment on individual liberty, which has reached new heights on the back of the PATRIOT Act and increased capital controls, has spawned a great deal of resistance.
This election cycle is truly proving to be one in which the U.S. public is finally drawing a line in the sand and standing up to centralization and increased federal government interference in people’s daily lives. In the U.S., as is the case in Switzerland, pro-establishment forces are trying to paint these popular movements as precursors to fascism and intolerance, when in fact, they represent the opposite.
The Donald – face of the anti-establishment movement in the US (ironically this requires a billionaire, so as to ensure freedom from “donors”).
Photo credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images
Regardless of their particular stances on specific issues, what unites these movements worldwide is that the people are exercising their self-determination in showing that they, and not politicians or bureaucrats, are the ultimate sovereigns over democratic governments. What do all of these movements have in common? A lack of faith in the establishment and a sense of urgency in resisting centralized power.
Looking at Switzerland’s resistance against the EU, UKIP’s fight for Brexit, the AfD’s euro skepticism and Trump’s anti-establishment support, we see a common trend: An exercise of political power in the spirit of independence and in defense of liberty. Although some of these political movements may appear to have some unsavory elements – labeled as fascist by the establishment – they do share the noble principle of self-determination.
More and more people are questioning their governments; resistance to the status quo is growing. One cannot stop an idea whose time has come. With only a few months to go, it would be quite remarkable if the Swiss wave of resistance were to reach the British Isles.
Brexit paranoia strikes the EU
Cartoon by Christo Komarnitski
The EU and its member states are desperate to keep Britain as a member, trying to deflect the forces that threaten to undermine the organization’s integrity further. However, the EU is already losing its grip on expansion with the withdrawal of Iceland’s and Switzerland’s membership applications.
At the same time the statist Swiss federal establishment is continuing to combat the adamant resistance to further centralization led by conservative and libertarian groups such as the SVP. The political establishment in the U.S., including the Republican elite, is trying to derail the movement uniting behind Donald Trump, which ultimately represents a call to arms against ever-growing state interference.
The State is using the media to promote a false image to the masses, with the aim of destroying the image and reputation of those brave resisting individuals. We need to spread the word and reveal what is really at stake – freedom or slavery! This is the key message from Switzerland, one of the world’s last bastions of liberty.
The “Don’t Tread On Me” Swiss army knife.
Image captions by PT