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People to decide on EU accords

People's Party President Ueli Maurer delivered the petition to the government on Thursday Keystone

Voters will decide on June 5 whether Switzerland signs up to the European Union Schengen/Dublin accords on closer security and asylum cooperation.

Opponents of the accords – led by the rightwing People’s Party – have presented the government with a petition bearing 86,000 signatures, well over the 50,000 needed to force a referendum.

Supporters of Schengen/Dublin reacted immediately, with 150 parliamentarians forming a cross-party committee on Thursday to rally popular support for the EU treaties.

The announcement comes two days after the far right handed in a petition against extending an existing accord on the free movement of labour to the ten new EU member states. A nationwide vote on this issue is due to be held on September 25.

The Schengen/Dublin treaties form part of a package of nine bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, approved by parliament in December.

The accord on the free movement of labour is already in force for the “old” 15 EU-member states, after being approved in 2002.

It was widely expected that opponents would force referendums on both issues and the government had already set aside dates in June and September for nationwide votes.

Security and sovereignty

In a statement, the Swiss Action Committee against Schengen/EU Membership accused the government of doing everything it could to prevent a referendum from taking place.

Despite this, the committee said it had managed to gather a very high number of signatures in a short period of time.

The committee added that Schengen/Dublin posed the biggest threat to the country’s sovereignty and security since the founding of the modern Swiss state in 1848.

Ueli Maurer, the president of the People’s Party, argued that Switzerland’s security would be compromised and crime would rise.

“Today we are more secure than most other European countries,” he told the media in Bern.

“It is obvious that the government and parliament view membership of Schengen purely as a means of removing the obstacles to EU membership,” said Maurer.

The isolationist Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland is fighting alongside the People’s Party against Schengen/Dublin.

swissinfo with agencies

Swiss opponents of the Schengen/Dublin accords collected 86,000 signatures to force a referendum on the issue.
A nationwide vote will be held on June 5.
On September 25, the Swiss will vote again on extending an accord on the free movement of people to the ten new EU member states.

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