Nearly three quarters of the Swiss approved Sunday, May 15 by referendum the financing of the European border agency Frontex, and validated at approximately 60% the obligation made to the streaming services to invest in the Swiss audiovisual, through the LexNetflix.
For once, the Swiss have taken a step towards the European Union, by approving 71.48% of funding for the reform of the controversial Frontex agency. A no would have further weakened the ties between Switzerland and the European Union (EU), which have been strained since Bern suddenly decided, in May 2021, to end years of discussions for an institutional agreement with this block of states.
“Today’s Swiss vote reaffirms the importance the Swiss place both on the role of Frontex and on the benefits of free movement and border management. Schengen remains our crown jewel”reacted on Twitter the vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas.
The Swiss MP for the Centre, Marie-France Roth Pasquier, a convinced pro-European, nevertheless assured that the Swiss’ yes to Frontex does not mean that the Swiss have “changed his mind about the European Union”. But “When we talk about security, we manage to have a majority of citizens in Switzerland who support this security”she said on national television RTS.
The reform of Frontex aims to provide it with a permanent European corps of 10,000 border and coast guards by 2027. Currently, the agency has more than 1,500 agents from various Member States, and it is regularly accused, in particular by non-governmental organizations, of practices of illegal refoulement of migrants, and its French boss, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned at the end of April following an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office.
Switzerland is expected to provide more staff – around 40 positions at most, up from around six currently – and increase its annual financial contribution to 61 million Swiss francs (58 million euros) from 24 million in 2021. But a committee bringing together various NGOs helping migrants and environmentalist and left-wing parties had launched a referendum against the government’s and Parliament’s plan.
However, the government had warned the population that in the event of refusal, the Confederation’s cooperation with the Schengen and Dublin states risked automatically ending. Also, the right-wing parties had given their support to the Swiss participation in the development of Frontex, including the Democratic Union of the center in the camp of the extreme right, which is in principle against the signing of any agreement between Switzerland and the EU.
Environmental and left-wing circles had launched the referendum. “The yes to the increased contribution to #Frontex is a missed opportunity for a more suitable humanitarian project. One thing is clear: Frontex must be reformed. Systematic and illegal #pushbacks at the EU’s external borders must end”commented the Swiss Socialist Party, on Twitter.
The audiovisual regulations, known as “Lex Netflix”, also passed the ramp, at 58.42%. The new audiovisual regulations, called “Lex Netflix”, will force streaming platforms to invest 4% of their turnover in Switzerland in national creation, by participating in productions or by paying a tax which will be used to support the cinema.
Since 2007, national television channels must already invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss cinematographic creation. This obligation will apply to foreign channels which broadcast advertising spots specific to Switzerland, such as TF1 and M6.
Cinematographic creation – which has benefited in recent years from an average annual funding of 105 million francs (101 million euros) – should obtain an additional 18 million francs a year thanks to the reform, according to the Federal Office of culture. Streaming platforms will also have to offer 30% European content, as is already the case in the EU.
For advocates of the reform, shooting more films in Switzerland will benefit the local economy, while strengthening the competitiveness of national film production against European countries which already apply an obligation to invest.
The opposing camp had brandished the threat of an increase in the price of subscriptions, and argued that the quota for European films would penalize productions from elsewhere and would be a dangerous precedent for music streaming services.
“By aligning itself with the practices of neighboring countries, Switzerland is improving its competitiveness on the European market and ensuring equal opportunities on the international scene”welcomed the Romande Association of audiovisual production, bringing together more than a hundred producers in French-speaking Switzerland.
The Swiss also accepted at 60.20% the proposal to increase organ donations thanks to the transition to the model of presumed consent, as in France, a principle denounced by some who evoke an ethical problem. Until now, a person who wishes to donate their organs had to give their consent during their lifetime. From now on, those who do not wish to donate their organs will have to indicate this explicitly.
Over the past five years, around 450 people per year on average have received in Switzerland – which has more than 8.6 million inhabitants – one or more organs removed from deceased persons. But at the end of 2021, there were more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Last year, 72 people died while waiting for a donation, according to the national foundation Swisstransplant.
Currently, it often happens that the will of the person concerned is not known. It is therefore up to the relatives to decide. In the majority of cases, they oppose organ donation, according to the authorities. The refusal rate of more than 60% noted during interviews with relatives is one of the highest in Europe, even though polls show that 80% of the Swiss population is in favor of donating organs, explains the Swisstransplant foundation.
According to the Swiss authorities, most European countries, notably France, Italy, Austria and Spain, apply the model of presumed consent, and record on average a higher percentage of donations than Switzerland.
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