There is a nasty, cold wind blowing from Switzerland now. Yesterday’s Swiss vote to cap immigration is another indication of jobs being ring fenced for local voters. Switzerland is at the heart of Western Europe, but is not part of the EU. Given it’s location it has relied on immigration to keep it’s highly developed economy going and growing. Nearly 25% of the population are immigrants these days and this has resulted in the far right, populist movement to demand a vote on capping the immigration levels.
Against all expectations (in the media that is), the Swiss voted by the slimmest of margins (50.3%) to impose quotas on newcomers to the country. As the Swiss mostly play by the rules set by the EU, this has caused some panic in Brussels. They’re now threatening to review their relationship with Switzerland, which in a worse case scenario, could mean that all treaties will have to be renegotiated, as freedom of movement and the Schengen agreement are at the heart of the EU.
The Swiss government now has three years to come to a new agreement with the EU and it will have to find a solution as to where they will get the people from to fill the vacancies the Swiss can’t or won’t fill themselves. If this happens, one thing can be guaranteed: wage inflation! Swiss wages are already amongst the highest in Europe and will rise even further if the supply of staff is cut.
With various elections on the horizon in Europe, this vote is not very welcome news for politicians in Europe, who are already battling with a resurgent far right movement. This movement has been quick to capitalise on the uneasy feeling people now have with an EU perceived as corrupt, wasteful and meddling in local affairs.
Brussels should take note and start reforming their sclerotic structure into a democratic one that properly represents the people rather than vested interests of political leaders and Brussels’ bureaucrats. Europe has never really won people’s hearts as it is not a real democracy and is now on a crash course that might result in the break up of the EU, if they do not change.
This current mood does not bode well for the right of people to work anywhere in Europe without all the red tape one had to deal with years ago. If Europe reverts back to the old habits, economic growth will suffer. The open borders enable people to vote with their feet and force governments into action.
It happened to Poland and will happen again with Mediterranean countries. They’re at risk of losing a whole generation of highly educated and motivated people to countries in Northern Europe, unless they reform. Spain and Greece have already started reforming, Italy still clings on to the old ways.
Let’s just hope politicians for once can see beyond their own wallet and start acting in the interest of the people they represent. Shutting down borders in a highly interconnected world means economic suicide and stagnation for years to come.