As the world’s largest travel destination, the Schengen zone commands a mighty economic presence for many countries. It’s also a huge business destination, as well, and that’s something that Switzerland is grappling with now as a proposed May 2020 referendum, if successful, could see the country losing its access to this coveted area.
What’s the referendum in question?
It’s being pushed by the right-wing-leaning Swiss People’s Party and seeks to end the 2007 agreement that Switzerland made with the EU regarding freedom of movement. Among aspects of this agreement includes information sharing through the Schengen zone. If Switzerland votes to end this agreement with a positive vote on the referendum, the way the economy operates with its partner countries in Europe could be drastically changed.
Loss of such access would have a major impact on the economy of Switzerland. The Swiss government said in a statement, “That would have painful consequences, primarily for security and asylum issues but also for border traffic and freedom to travel.”
For those who may not know, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and merely enjoys some of these perks via its agreements with that multinational body. The country often has a historically neutral stance which could be the impetus behind the referendum’s momentum.
Some analysts are even calling this Switzerland’s “Brexit” moment. According to government figures published in 2019, there are some 2.1 million foreigners in Switzerland which has a total estimated population of 8.5 million. Immigration added 55,000 to that number in 2019, the report indicates. The major groups of European Union citizens residing in Switzerland include the Germans, French, and Portuguese. The largest group of non-European Union nationals living in Switzerland are from Kosovo.