Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe,” says this weekend’s vote in Switzerland to restrict the number of foreigners who can live and work on that country is more than a xenophobic backlash – but rather a increasingly powerful rejection of the European Union.
“The vote to curb immigration in Switzerland says more about the dilemmas facing European Union than it does about Swiss politics.
“The more or less standard newspaper account says the anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party mobilized xenophobic sentiment that made the bill narrowly pass. International industrials, such as Novartis, are complaining that they will not be able to hire top talent and the EU is claiming that Switzerland is violating free movement agreements that it signed on to – even though Swiss citizens have repeatedly voted against joining EU.
“Voter turnout on Sunday was 56 percent as opposed to the more customary 40 percent. A 16 percent difference cannot be ascribed to the political maneuvers of right wing politicians.
“The Swiss vote is a popular anti-EU vote – reflecting anti-EU sentiments that are spreading across the continent. EU is talking about sanctioning Switzerland and is calling Swiss leaders in for talks.
The real problem is going to be in May during the European parliamentary elections. Anti-Europe coalitions led by nationalist and populism politicians are already leading in the polls. When European citizens of various EU member states vote against EU, the EU will have no one to sanction and will have to face the dissatisfaction of ordinary citizens that has intensified since the financial crisis hit Europe in 2010.”
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