Frontex vote heats up with demonstration in Bern

Frontex, “oui ou non”? Vote campaign posters this week in Geneva. © Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Opponents of the decision to boost Switzerland’s financial contribution to the European border agency Frontex staged a demonstration in the capital on Saturday, ahead of a nationwide vote on May 15.

This content was published on April 23, 2022 - 18:55

The rally was called by around 80 different groups including NGOs, left-wing parties, and churches, who attacked the “wall-building” policies symbolised by Frontex. Organisers claimed 3,000 people showed up, while news agencies and the local Berner Zeitung paper said “around a thousand”.

The opponents say Frontex is responsible for human rights violations at Europe’s external borders, where its job is to track down illegal immigration and criminal smuggling. Its backers, including the government and centrist and right-wing parties, say Switzerland – as a member of Europe's border-free Schengen area – is obliged to play its part in contributing to the policing of its borders.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has even intimated that a “no” vote could lead to Switzerland leaving the Schengen system altogether. The opponents say rejecting the finance increase for Frontex would give Switzerland more clout to push for a reform of it.

Negative polls

After a majority in parliament approved the boost in annual funding last year – from CHF24 million to CHF61 million by 2027 – left-wing groups and NGOs successfully collected the 50,000 signatures needed to force a referendum.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 15 vote don’t look good for the “no” side: a survey in the second half of March found 63% already planning to vote in favour of the issue.

The Frontex vote is one of three on the ballot for Swiss voters on May 15: the others are a proposalExternal link to make organ donation consent presumed, and a lawExternal link to make online streaming platforms contribute more cash to Swiss film production.

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