Bid to give voters more say in foreign policy

Voting rights on foreign policy issues are to be extended Keystone

A government plan to give voters a greater say in foreign policy has won the approval of the House of Representatives.

This content was published on April 13, 2011

However, a more far-reaching initiative by a conservative group failed to win a majority in the House on Wednesday. The other parliamentary chamber, the Senate is still to discuss the proposal before it goes to a nationwide vote at a later date.

The Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (Cins) wants voters to have the final say on all international treaties.

Supporters, mainly among the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, argued it was vital to extend direct democracy to foreign policy to stop moves towards closer international integration.

Opponents are afraid of the people’s will, they argued.

However, a majority in the house said the initiative was unrealistic and would damage direct democracy.

Several speakers argued it was impossible to ask voters to decide on too many issues and it was still possible to force ballot box decisions by collecting enough signatures for a referendum.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga conceded that there were loopholes in existing laws. She called for the introduction of mandatory votes on international treaties which would require a constitutional amendment.

The Cins initiative was launched after rightwingers lost a challenge of a bilateral treaty on closer cooperation between Switzerland and the European Union on police and asylum issues – known as the Schengen and Dublin accords - in 2005.

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