The possibility of a Swiss exit from the Schengen Area looms in the future of 2022 as controversy intensifies about European border strength and the agency that enforces European sovereignty.
According to Karin Keller-Sutter, the Swiss Federal Councilor for the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), Switzerland might reach a point where the country has to exit the Schengen Agreement and withdraw from the Schengen Area, should a vote on a referendum in May 2022 go a certain way.
The issue that will be voted on in May is whether or not Switzerland will continue to support the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX).
Frontex is a controversial organization, as its primary task is enforcing European sovereignty, encouraging legal migration to the EU, and discouraging illegal migration to the EU.
With the Schengen-wide budget increase to Frontex in Autumn 2021, some Swiss politicians and activists gathered more than 62,000 signatures to hold a referendum vote to reverse the funding to Frontex from Switzerland.
The vote is scheduled to take place on 15 May 2022.
If the opposition to Frontex funding is successful, Karin Keller-Sutter says that it could signal a situation where Switzerland would be forced to exit the Schengen Area.
This is likely because Switzerland would no longer be contributing to the organizations that are a part of the Schengen Area, thus breaching the Schengen Agreement.
“If there is a no to Frontex, it is clear that we will have to leave the Schengen-Dublin area,” Keller-Sutter said. She continued, “A refusal to strengthen Frontex would indeed lead to an almost inevitable withdrawal of Switzerland from the agency,”
There is a caveat, however. If the Swiss people vote to stop strengthening Frontex and reverse their funding of the agency, Switzerland and the other Schengen Member States will have 90 days to figure out a common solution.
It is likely that a common solution could be found, which would give the Swiss government the opportunity to appease their vocal activists, at the same time allowing the country to remain a Schengen Member State.
If, however, there is not a common solution reached within the 90-day timeframe, Switzerland will have 90 days to fully exit the Schengen Area if they cannot reverse their course domestically.
This scenario is the one referenced by Keller-Sutter. She likely believes it will be impossible to resolve this issue with the other Member States (or domestically afterwards) if the Swiss people vote to stop supporting Frontex, which could lead to a stalemate from not being able to compromise or find alternative solutions, and thus the withdrawal of Switzerland from Schengen.
Switzerland could see very negative effects of withdrawing from the Schengen Area. This would officially disassociate the country from nearly all official ties with the rest of Europe, as they are not a member of the European Union or the European Economic Agreement. The only remaining official affiliation would be their member ship in the Single Market.
Switzerland signed the Schengen Agreement on 26 October 2004, and started the implementation process on 12 December 2008.