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Switzerland as a Model for the EU


Cheneval, Francis; Ferrín, Mónica (2018). Switzerland as a Model for the EU. In: Cheneval, Francis; Ferrín, Mónica. Citizenship in segmented societies : lessons for the EU. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 10-39.

Abstract

This chapter compares the institutional setting and integrations processes in Switzerland and the EU. The major findings are that EU integration is trying to achieve more political integra-tion and accommodation of a much higher degree of diversity in much less time than has ever been the case in Switzerland. Integration and expansion processes that were slower and non-linear in Switzerland and that happened in separate phases (e.g. religious diversifi-cation, linguistic diversification, territorial expansion, etc.) are all going on at the same time in the EU. Especially integration and accession with enormous shocks of diversification are engineered at the same time in the EU. From this point of view, the EU has already tried to go beyond many stages that took centuries to be completed in Switzerland. The institutional design of the European Union seems to echo quite well the federal state formation process in Switzerland. The following precisions are however necessary in the comparative perspective. First, the momentary stage of European Integration, characterized by intergovernmental cri-sis management, resembles the (dysfunctional) intergovernmental centralism of the Swiss cantons during the decades before the formation of the federal-state in 1848. Second, due to the greater diversity of the European Union, this quasi-federal system has derived in extreme asymmetries between the member states. Since EU identity is not well entrenched among European citizens (and politicians), it has been hard to design institutions and policies of common territorial protection and redistribution and there is mistrust towards centralistic EU institutions (specially in the countries more affected by the economic crisis). Most European citizens do not feel that their interests are taken into account by the European Union. Third, it is important to note that in Swiss federalism the municipalities play an important role, they are much more than just administrative districts. This city-centred and bottom up construct of citizenship is guaranteed by the Swiss federal constitution. Citizens feel that their most im-mediate and local identity is not jeopardized but rooted in and guaranteed by the Swiss fed-eral constitution. Compared to sub-national Swiss federalism, EU federalism is entirely fo-cused on the nation-state and the EU institutions. Serious consideration ought to be given to the idea that European citizenship is not only about bringing citizenship to a higher European level but also about bringing it more to the root-level of citizenship: the city.
Direct democracy has acted as a federator in the Swiss context. Switzerland made direct democracy and direct democracy made Switzerland. There has been a slow and iterative process of adaptation of structurally similar institutions of direct democracy at all levels (communal, cantonal, federal) of all units (all communes, all cantons, confederation roughly between 1830-1891. To the contrary, the EU is only incipiently in a process of introducing direct democracy (in some member-states and ECI), and so far direct democracy is mainly practiced as national plebiscitary democracy. Under this guise it is seen as a threat to EU integration and probably not without good reason. While in Switzerland the coherent intro-duction of direct democracy at all levels of the polity in the long run served as an important unifier, direct democracy has even not been considered as integrative part of all levels of political integration in the EU.
It is of great interest that the one element in which the European Union has based the con-struction of EU citizenship and identity – mobility of residence – has been implicitly discour-aged in Switzerland. The institutional design as incorporated in Swiss multicultural identity (which aims fundamentally at the protection of cantonal autonomy, culture and language) has facilitated that Switzerland is called today a successful multicultural society. Most citizens identify with Switzerland as a country and they like it as it is, but they do not want to take advantage of their formal right to move to other parts of the country, especially not across language borders. The same institutional design that has made of Switzerland a successful case of multiculturalism and democracy poses important barriers that make it difficult for the Swiss to move their residence across their country. Considering that one of the main features of European citizenship is the freedom of movement and residence, this poses a main con-cern. The Swiss compromise between the formal right and economic necessity of mobility on the one hand and the protection of political and cultural sub-identities on the other hand, is commuting. Due to the vast size, this is of limited applicability in the EU. However, in a Eu-rope of cities and trans-border regions, commuting is an important option provided that every European citizen lives reasonably close to an important economic centre. In short, the Eu-rope of commuters deserves attention in the context of EU citizenship.

Abstract

This chapter compares the institutional setting and integrations processes in Switzerland and the EU. The major findings are that EU integration is trying to achieve more political integra-tion and accommodation of a much higher degree of diversity in much less time than has ever been the case in Switzerland. Integration and expansion processes that were slower and non-linear in Switzerland and that happened in separate phases (e.g. religious diversifi-cation, linguistic diversification, territorial expansion, etc.) are all going on at the same time in the EU. Especially integration and accession with enormous shocks of diversification are engineered at the same time in the EU. From this point of view, the EU has already tried to go beyond many stages that took centuries to be completed in Switzerland. The institutional design of the European Union seems to echo quite well the federal state formation process in Switzerland. The following precisions are however necessary in the comparative perspective. First, the momentary stage of European Integration, characterized by intergovernmental cri-sis management, resembles the (dysfunctional) intergovernmental centralism of the Swiss cantons during the decades before the formation of the federal-state in 1848. Second, due to the greater diversity of the European Union, this quasi-federal system has derived in extreme asymmetries between the member states. Since EU identity is not well entrenched among European citizens (and politicians), it has been hard to design institutions and policies of common territorial protection and redistribution and there is mistrust towards centralistic EU institutions (specially in the countries more affected by the economic crisis). Most European citizens do not feel that their interests are taken into account by the European Union. Third, it is important to note that in Swiss federalism the municipalities play an important role, they are much more than just administrative districts. This city-centred and bottom up construct of citizenship is guaranteed by the Swiss federal constitution. Citizens feel that their most im-mediate and local identity is not jeopardized but rooted in and guaranteed by the Swiss fed-eral constitution. Compared to sub-national Swiss federalism, EU federalism is entirely fo-cused on the nation-state and the EU institutions. Serious consideration ought to be given to the idea that European citizenship is not only about bringing citizenship to a higher European level but also about bringing it more to the root-level of citizenship: the city.
Direct democracy has acted as a federator in the Swiss context. Switzerland made direct democracy and direct democracy made Switzerland. There has been a slow and iterative process of adaptation of structurally similar institutions of direct democracy at all levels (communal, cantonal, federal) of all units (all communes, all cantons, confederation roughly between 1830-1891. To the contrary, the EU is only incipiently in a process of introducing direct democracy (in some member-states and ECI), and so far direct democracy is mainly practiced as national plebiscitary democracy. Under this guise it is seen as a threat to EU integration and probably not without good reason. While in Switzerland the coherent intro-duction of direct democracy at all levels of the polity in the long run served as an important unifier, direct democracy has even not been considered as integrative part of all levels of political integration in the EU.
It is of great interest that the one element in which the European Union has based the con-struction of EU citizenship and identity – mobility of residence – has been implicitly discour-aged in Switzerland. The institutional design as incorporated in Swiss multicultural identity (which aims fundamentally at the protection of cantonal autonomy, culture and language) has facilitated that Switzerland is called today a successful multicultural society. Most citizens identify with Switzerland as a country and they like it as it is, but they do not want to take advantage of their formal right to move to other parts of the country, especially not across language borders. The same institutional design that has made of Switzerland a successful case of multiculturalism and democracy poses important barriers that make it difficult for the Swiss to move their residence across their country. Considering that one of the main features of European citizenship is the freedom of movement and residence, this poses a main con-cern. The Swiss compromise between the formal right and economic necessity of mobility on the one hand and the protection of political and cultural sub-identities on the other hand, is commuting. Due to the vast size, this is of limited applicability in the EU. However, in a Eu-rope of cities and trans-border regions, commuting is an important option provided that every European citizen lives reasonably close to an important economic centre. In short, the Eu-rope of commuters deserves attention in the context of EU citizenship.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:10 Apr 2018 12:17
Last Modified:23 May 2018 08:07
Publisher:Edward Elgar Publishing
ISBN:978-1-78811-268-0
OA Status:Closed
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod011148567 (Library Catalogue)
Project Information:
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID320294
  • : Project TitleBEUCITIZEN - All Rights Reserved? Barriers towards EUropean CITIZENship.

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