The decision by 50.3% of Swiss voters to limit the number of foreigners allowed into Switzerland is an own goal that has only made the country even more unpopular, according to most political cartoonists. However, the EU didn’t escape untouched either.
In their editorials, Swiss newspapers pointed to the historical significance and the uncertainty triggered by the result on February 9. Reactions varied from calling it a “worst case scenario” to a “victory”.
Most papers drew a comparison with the vote in 1992, when the Swiss narrowly rejected membership in the European Economic Area, the European Union’s predecessor.
Foreign media were more direct in their criticism, concerned that Switzerland had shot itself in the foot economically (Financial Times) and had “thumbed its nose” at Brussels (Belgium’s De Standaard). Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the result was the worst defeat for representatives of employers and unions since 1992.
The blame game soon started, with cabinet ministers some of the first in the firing line (the Swiss government is now in the unenviable position of having to implement the vote without triggering a messy divorce with Brussels). Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, for example, was forced to deny he hadn’t pulled his weight in explaining what was at stake.
European politicians – apart from those on the far right such as the Lega Nord in Italy – took a tough and rueful line. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was “bad news for Europe and the Swiss, because Switzerland will be penalised for withdrawing into itself”. Which summed up the view of Swiss cartoonists.