Federal Council rejects Ecopop Initiative

Keywords: Immigration

Press Release, The Federal Council, 23.10.2013

Bern. The Federal Council has issued a dispatch on the federal popular initiative entitled ‘Stop overpopulation – safeguard our natural environment’. Parliament is requested to put the initiative to the vote among the electorate and cantons, with the recommendation to reject the proposal. Furthermore, no direct counter-proposal to the initiative is made. When it presented its discussion paper on 29 May 2013, the Federal Council was already of the opinion that the objectives and content of the initiative could not be reconciled either with Switzerland’s current immigration policy nor with Swiss practice in international development cooperation.

The popular initiative foresees imposing a cap on immigration, which would represent a fundamentally new approach in immigration policy. It proposes that the permanent population of Switzerland should not increase by more than 0.2 per cent annually as the result of immigration. The initiative also proposes that at least 10 per cent of federal funds earmarked for development cooperation should be spent on promoting voluntary family planning.

The cap on residence permits would also apply to asylum seekers, persons granted entry on humanitarian grounds and those wanting to be reunited with a family member already in Switzerland. In these areas Switzerland is, however, bound by certain requirements under the Constitution and international agreements. Furthermore, the various economic sectors would have less opportunity to recruit the foreign labour they require.

Current immigration policy in the interests of the economy

Current immigration policy is based on the free movement of persons with the EU and on allowing a restricted number of persons from non-EU states to enter Switzerland. Immigration from the EU is steered primarily by the economy’s need for labour. Greatly restricting immigration into Switzerland, as proposed by the initiative, would mean that some sectors of the economy would be unable to recruit the workers they require.

If the popular initiative is accepted, quotas for residence permits of more than one year would need to be set for all permit categories. As there are so many different categories, and the interests of the various economic sectors are so divergent, this would be an exceedingly complex and expensive administrative task.

Swiss practice in development cooperation tried and tested

In addition to the cap on residence permits, the initiative requires that 10 per cent of funds earmarked for development cooperation should be spent on measures to promote voluntary family planning. Long-term experience in Switzerland in the field of development cooperation has shown that isolated measures prove to be ineffective.

If the initiative is accepted, Switzerland would need to carry out projects in voluntary family planning in developing countries even if their effect was shown to be limited. It would also mean a reduction in funding for other important measures, and this could actually be counterproductive to the aims of the initiative.

The Federal Council requests the Federal Assembly to present the initiative to the electorate and cantons without a counter-proposal, recommending that it should be rejected.

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