Will French rebuff influence Swiss voters?

Swiss voters have not yet made up their minds Keystone

Swiss discussions on France’s "no" to the European constitution have centred on how this might shape Sunday's vote on the Schengen/Dublin accords.

This content was published on May 30, 2005 - 23:43

Proponents of justice and asylum cooperation with the European Union stress the advantages of the bilateral approach, while opponents hope the French rejection will tip the scales in their favour.

The views range from seeing the French "no" as bolstering the case against closer ties with the EU or having no effect whatsoever on the public’s voting intentions.

Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz was among the political players who welcomed the news of the French thumbs-down.

"European integration that goes beyond economy and security stumbles at its borders," Merz told the German-language daily, Blick.

His view was that the French rebuff proved that Switzerland’s bilateral approach to relations with the EU was justified.

"I welcome France’s 'no’ because it confirms Switzerland’s policy of a bilateral path," Merz added.

The Swiss People’s Party, which forced a referendum on whether Bern should join the Schengen and Dublin accords, said that there was an indirect link between the French vote and the upcoming Swiss one.

"Swiss voters must be wondering what kind of a partner the EU would make and whether one should really bind oneself legally in such a way to the EU," said spokesman Roman Jäggi.

"One can only hope that France’s 'no’ will open the eyes of some voters," Jäggi added.

Begging to differ

The Swiss foreign ministry took a different line, saying that the result was more of an "internal matter" for the EU.

It added that the French rejection would not adversely affect the prospect of Switzerland signing further bilateral accords with the EU.

René Schwok, professor of political science at the European Institute of Geneva University, told swissinfo that there were two reasons why the French decision was unlikely to have an impact on the Swiss voter.

"First, the Swiss are voting on signing up to the Schengen/Dublin accords and not on the European constitution; second, the majority have already cast their votes by post," said Schwok.

The Radical Party condemned the efforts of the Schengen naysayers to manipulate the French "no" for their own purposes.

Jean-Philippe Jeannerat, spokesman for the Social Democrats stressed that a Swiss referendum was vastly different to a French one.

He added that in France, the recent referendum was not so much a vote on the new constitution but one on the current political establishment.

The president of the Christian Democrats, Doris Leuthard, was of the opinion that the prospects for Switzerland and its bilateral approach had improved through the French dismissal.


Key facts

French voters have rejected the European Union’s proposed constitution in a key referendum.
The vote could deal a fatal blow to the EU constitution, which needs to be ratified by all 25 members states before 2006.
Eight national referendums are still to come, including one in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

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In brief

Swiss voters are set to cast their ballots on June 5 on whether the country should sign up to the European Union's Schengen/Dublin accords.

These legal instruments will enhance cooperation in the fields of justice and asylum.

The last opinion poll ahead of the June 5 vote put support for Schengen/Dublin at 55%.

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