GENEVA, September 27. / TASS /. Five questions have been submitted to a national referendum to be held in Switzerland on Sunday. Citizens of the country were asked to express their opinion on a legislative initiative aimed at limiting the influx of labor from the EU countries, on the allocation of a loan for the purchase of new combat aircraft, on a new law on hunting, as well as to approve or reject laws on the introduction of two-week leave for fathers at childbirth and about tax benefits for families with children.
5.4 million citizens aged 18 and over have the right to participate in the referendum. Many of them have already taken advantage of the opportunity provided by the legislation to vote by mail.
The central place in the referendum, judging by the number of political debates and publications in the press, is the denunciation of the agreement with the EU on the free movement of labor. It was concluded in 1999 in a package with other treaties that are of key importance for Switzerland's relations with its main trading partner – the European Union.
The right-wing conservative Swiss People's Party (SNP), which has the largest electoral base in the country, was in favor of putting the legislative initiative "For Commensurate Immigration" to a vote. The aim is to return Switzerland, which is very attractive to EU immigrants due to its high salaries and low unemployment, the right to independently regulate labor migration and reduce the pressure of foreign labor on the labor and wage market, and ease the burden on the social security system. A constitutional amendment is envisaged prohibiting the conclusion of agreements with Brussels on the free settlement of citizens of the EU countries in Switzerland.
This initiative was strongly opposed by the government, the majority of parliament members and all other major parties. They believe that the rejection of the agreement with the EU on the free movement of labor will lead to the disruption of the rest of the package documents. This is fraught with the introduction in the European Union of barriers to Swiss exports and, as a result, huge losses for the economy.
Migration from the EU to Switzerland has been relatively low in recent years – about 30 thousand people a year, that is, significantly lower than in the first years after the 2008 crisis. According to a public opinion poll conducted on September 10-11 by the Tamedia media group, the SNP initiative will be rejected by a majority of almost two-thirds.
Combat aircraft loan
The same poll shows a high chance of citizens' approval in a referendum on September 27 of a 6 billion francs ($ 6.48 billion at current exchange rate) loan to purchase new next-generation combat aircraft for the Swiss air force. Approximately 65% of voters are inclined to say "yes" to this loan during the vote. The service life of the current F / A-18 fighters expires in 2030 and cannot be extended for technical reasons.
The government and the majority of parliament members supported the allocation of a loan for the planes, but the anti-war public organization "For Switzerland without an Army" initiated a collection of signatures for putting the issue to a referendum. It was supported by two influential political forces – the Social Democrats and the Greens. In their opinion, new combat aircraft are not needed, since the Air Force actually performs the function of an air police, and these tasks can be solved in less costly ways.
The Swiss will also have to decide in a referendum whether fathers should be entitled to two weeks' paid leave at the time of childbirth. Although such a right was already provided for in a bill approved by parliament, it was opposed by the Swiss People's Party, which initiated a referendum. The federal government also did not support the bill: it believes that it is better to spend money on organizing childcare outside the family, as well as to introduce parental leave for parents to care for seriously ill children.
According to a September opinion poll, the majority of citizens are ready to support the father's leave bill (about 70%). If the forecast is confirmed, then fathers will be able to take a two-week vacation at any time within six months after the birth of a child and receive 80% of their average income. Now they have the right at the birth of a child only one day off.
Controversial concern for families
A bill on tax incentives for parents, approved by the parliament, is aimed at supporting families with children. The amount of child expenses, which will be subject to tax deductions, will increase from the current 6.5 thousand to 10 thousand francs per year. In addition, the amount of deductions for a babysitter, kindergarten or extended school day will increase from 10.1 thousand to 25 thousand per year.
This bill, however, did not suit the left-wing parties. They believe that only high-income families will benefit from such a tax cut, and that the treasury will miss about 370 million francs a year. As a result, families who rely on budget places in kindergartens may suffer. However, according to the Tamedia poll, the majority of Swiss (51%) are in favor of the law.
Opinions about wolves are divided
As for the new version of the hunting law approved by parliament, which is aimed at liberalizing the rules for shooting wild animals, a public opinion poll promises him an approximately equal number of votes in the referendum. This law unexpectedly caused quite heated discussions. Swiss animal rights activists are strongly unhappy with the fact that wolves and mountain goats will henceforth be considered "regulated species of animals", that is, it will be easier to obtain permission to shoot them than now.
The new version of the law is supported, however, by the government and the majority of parliament members, considering it as a compromise between nature conservation and the needs of economic activity. The excessive increase in the number of wolves in the country is opposed by Swiss farmers who suffer losses from attacks by predators on their herds.
Local referendums will also be held in Switzerland on September 27, where topics relevant to the population of cantons, cities and villages are put to the vote.