Today, no one wants us to join the EU!
Interview in «swissinfo» from 6 december 2002
Ten years ago, Christoph Blocher, a prominent member of the Swiss People’s Party, fought a tough campaign to convince the Swiss to reject membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).
Blocher told swissinfo that he still believes Switzerland’s decision to stay out of the EEA single market was the right one.
of Felix Münger
Rejection of EEA membership led Switzerland to negotiate a series of
bilateral accords with the European Union governing a wide range of
issues such as trade and the free movement of people.
The first seven bilateral agreements came into force on June 1 and a
second set of accords are now being negotiated.
These include the Schengen agreement which calls for the scrapping
of border controls between Switzerland and the EU and provides
common policies for fighting crime.
Do you still believe that your standpoint on the EEA back
in 1992 was appropriate?
Christoph Blocher: I certainly do. Had the Swiss voted to join the
EEA, we would now be a member of the European Union (EU). And
with the exception of the Swiss cabinet, no one wants to join the EU.
Even the business community has realised that membership would
have serious disadvantages.
Back in 1992, you became known as the champion of the
“no” to EEA membership campaign. How important was the vote for
Christoph Blocher: Yes, I did become well known during the campaign
but that was not my goal. I simply understood the importance of the
issue – direct democracy, our laws and the welfare of our country
was at stake. That motivated me to doggedly fight for what I
believed, which I did. In hindsight, I probably couldn’t do it a second
time; it was very exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
Opponents say that rejection of the EEA has resulted in
the decline of Switzerland’s economy.
Christoph Blocher: The economy has certainly worsened since 1992.
Ten years ago we had less debt and lower taxes – conditions that
would enable the economy to flourish. But our current situation has
nothing to do with Switzerland’s decision to reject EEA membership.
It’s more the result of poor political decisions, with Switzerland trying
to adapt to the EU while at the same time driving up taxes.
What do you believe could help the Swiss economy
achieve higher growth?
Christoph Blocher: Government spending has to fall, there can be no
new tax increases and additional debt is out of the question. In fact,
taxes should decrease. No other country has raised taxes as much as
Switzerland. Apart from that I am convinced that we would improve
our chances if we all stood behind Switzerland. We need to stop
bowing down to other countries – no other country does that.
Deep down inside, Switzerland is afraid of change. Major
changes, such as breaking cartels, are currently impossible …
Christoph Blocher: If the Swiss People’s Party gains more support in the next elections, then the tables will turn. If that happens, other political parties will have to follow a more right-of-centre political path.
How should the relationship between Switzerland and the
EU continue? The second round of bilateral agreements has started
but they have yet to get off the ground.
Christoph Blocher: I don’t believe these negotiations should continue.
The cabinet is only cooperating because they want Switzerland to
join the EU. The new agreements will probably lead Switzerland to join
the EU’s Schengen agreement and possibly lift banking secrecy. We
don’t need to be a part Schengen and lifting banking secrecy is out of