Emblematic conservative figure Christoph Blocher told People’s Party members that accepting the EU framework accord would be tantamount to ‘suicide for Switzerland’. Current president Ueli Maurer struck a more nuanced note.
Speaking to over 1,000 members of the right-wing People’s Party in Zurich on Friday night, Blocher said that the framework accord – which Switzerland and the European Union have been struggling to negotiate for five years – was a “classic contract of subjugation”.
Raising again the spectre of a “takeover” of foreign law and judges (a fear that was rejected by Swiss voters in a ballot last November), Blocher claimed that signing the accord would be harmful for competitiveness and would threaten jobs, salaries, and even social harmony.
He criticised the Swiss ruling class, who he said were like rabbits caught in front of Brussels’ headlamps and who receive their “commanding orders” from the economiesuisse business federationexternal link.
Should the accord be accepted by parliament in its current form, Blocher warned, a referendum would be organised.
Last Wednesday saw the Swiss government publish an explanatory note on the draft framework accord, which aims to pull under a single umbrella agreement the patchwork bilateral deals which determined relations between Bern and Brussels until now.
A consultation process involving those likely to be affected by the deal – employers, business leaders, etc. – was also initiated this week, and will run to early summer.
EU figures, however, are showing signs of impatience at the slow pace with which Switzerland is deciding whether to sign the deal, and this week, a leaked internal EU note revealed that progress on other areas of cooperation is set to be frozen until a satisfactory conclusion is reached.
Current Swiss president and finance minister Ueli Maurer, also of the People’s Party and who has previously made his scepticism of the deal known, spoke after Blocher on Friday, but grounded his speech rather in the challenge of marrying traditional Swiss values with the shifting challenges of the 21st century.