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People’s Party to target Schengen membership

Flush from victory at the polls last Sunday, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party has sealed its programme for the next four years.

One week after voters approved the party’s initiative to expel foreign criminals, delegates at an open-air meeting in canton Vaud agreed that the party should push for Switzerland’s withdrawal from Europe’s Schengen Area and the introduction of restrictions on development aid.

More than 40 motions were approved. Delegates unanimously voted in favour of demanding that the government renounce its membership of the single-border Schengen Area.

Also on the international front, the party will call on the government to cut aid to those developing countries whose citizens are considered a great financial burden to the Swiss asylum and justice systems.

The Swiss People’s Party will also now push to tighten entrance criteria for foreign students applying to Swiss universities, and for the authorities to ensure fees cover all of the costs incurred by these people.

Other new measures include a nationwide ban on begging in public spaces, tolerance of crosses and crucifixes as symbols of Switzerland’s Christian culture, and lower taxes on business assets of private persons and private companies.

The party president, Toni Brunner, said the gathering in an open field near Gland stood for “freedom of speech and assembly”, in a dig at the authorities of Lausanne.

For security reasons, the party’s request to hold its meeting in halls in Lausanne were turned down.

The People’s Party is the largest in parliament, with 29 per cent of the seats. The next biggest is the centre-left Social Democrats with 19 per cent.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR