Government proposes automatic referendums for international pacts

The home of (Swiss) law: federal parliament in Bern. Keystone / Anthony Anex

The government plans to enshrine in the constitution an automatic clause giving Swiss voters a say on the signing of certain international treaties.

This content was published on January 15, 2020 - 14:27

The project, announced on Wednesday, will increase legal security and boost the democratic legitimacy of international law, the government wrote in a press releaseExternal link.

The idea comes just four months after a right-wing initiative to give Swiss law full primacy over international law was rejected by voters.

The automatic triggering of a referendum would kick in for any international agreement which deals with fundamental rights, which modifies the Swiss constitution, or which “interferes with the overall process of running the state”, the government wrote.

Currently, such a stipulation to consult the people on agreements involving international security pacts or joining international organisations exists, but it as an unwritten rule.

In the past, this has been used on only three occasions, including in 1920 (when Switzerland joined the League of Nations) and in 1972 (when it signed a free trade deal with the EU).

Now the government wants to explicitly enshrine it in the constitution.

The project itself has been sent to parliament for debate. Since it involves a constitutional change itself, it will be put to a national vote before any implementation.

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