With the European Union and the Euro in an unprecedented financial crisis, the upcoming parliamentary elections in Switzerland are for a certain degree going about the relation between Switzerland and its surrounding neighbors, I expect. Popular support for the Euro is lower than ever in the Euro zone, and although leaving the Euro zone after you have actually joined it does not seem feasible, it is interesting to see what happens to West-European countries who have not joined the Euro.
A short overview of the recent history. In 2001 Swiss electorate voted in a referendum against the government proposal to join the EU. While it is still following some of the EU praticises, especially on the economic and financial field, of the EU, those have to be arranged in bilateral agreements. That works out pretty well in some cases, like for the Schengen-agreement, where Switzerland has practically abolished border control for EU citizens. Since it is landlocked by EU-member states, international border control for people (not goods) is for a large degree outsourced to the EU.
Switzerland has two rising political forces, the Swiss People’s party, a conservative nationalistic party with close to 30 percent of support and strongly against linking up with the EU. The Green Party is another rising force, although they remained just under 10 percent during the previous elections. They are very much in favor of Switzerland joining the EU, and the public debate on Europe is to a large degree between those two. (Here we see some comparisons with other European countries, but that is another issue.)
Social Democrats, the Liberal party and Christian Democrats are the numbers two, three and four in political size, with between 15-20 percent of popular support, but under pressure from the relative extremes, the conservative and the green competitors.
Economically, Switzerland has been doing very well. Through the IMF it is still partly exposed to the current Euro-crisis, but the direct financial damage would have been much larger, if it would have been part of the Euro zone. Switzerland is an island of wealth, both in terms of wages, consumption, costs, compared to its neighbors.
There is only one sector that is complaining loudly, as this recent Reuters’ article illustrates: the export industry. But since much of the Swiss industry (I mentioned before the wine industry) is rather focused on domestic consumption, most export-oriented industries that are still exporting, have such great assets, pricing is not really an issue.
Now, Switzerland is on a holiday and elections are still far away, but Brussels will certainly have a close eye on the upcoming electoral debates.