The Swiss called to vote on the participation in the Frontex agency: a rejection could exclude the country from the Schengen area

Created in 2004, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, helps the States of the European Union and the countries associated with the Schengen area, including Switzerland, although it is not part of the EU, to protect the external borders of this area of ​​free movement.

Four years after the 2015 migration crisis following the Syrian conflict, the European Parliament approved a reinforcement of Frontex in order to provide it with a permanent European corps of 10,000 border guards and coast guards by 2027: 3,000 employees of the agency and 7,000 people made available by the States.

Currently, the agency has more than 1,500 agents from various Member States.

She is regularly accused, in particular by NGOs, of practices of illegal refoulement of migrants and her French boss resigned at the end of April following an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office.

Switzerland has been cooperating with the EU since 2008 in the areas of security and asylum, and has participated in Frontex since 2011, including the joint flights that the agency coordinates for the return of migrants.

The Swiss government and Parliament want Switzerland to participate in the work to strengthen Frontex.

The referendum

Switzerland is expected to provide more staff – around 40 maximum positions compared to currently around 6 – and increase its annual financial contribution to 61 million Swiss francs (58 million euros) compared to 24 million in 2021.

But the “No Frontex” committee bringing together various NGOs and environmentalist and left-wing parties has gathered enough signatures to demand a referendum against the Swiss reform project.

They argue that Frontex “participates in human rights violations” of refugees and migrants, and believe that Switzerland should not participate.

“Frontex’s activities are part of the racist narrative of migration as a threat”, denounces the referendum committee.

The right-wing parties generally support Swiss participation in the development of Frontex, including the UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre) in the camp of the extreme right, which is in principle against the signing of any agreement between Switzerland and the EU.

However, opinions are divided within the SVP, where certain representatives have called for a “no” vote on May 15 so that Switzerland leaves Frontex and regains “autonomous control” of its borders.

Automatic Exclusion?

Because if Swiss participation in the reform is rejected at the ballot box, the Confederation’s cooperation with the Schengen and Dublin states will automatically end, warned the Federal Council (government), “unless the EU states and the European Commission are not conciliatory”.

For Switzerland not to be expelled, a committee comprising representatives of Switzerland, the European Commission and all EU member states would have to decide otherwise within 90 days. However, this decision must be taken unanimously.

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for the European Commission told AFP that “it is too early to speculate on the outcome of the vote”.

According to the Federal Council, the consequences of a cessation of cooperation with the Schengen and Dublin States “would be perceptible to everyone on a daily basis – in particular through restrictions on the freedom to travel – and would entail high costs for the whole of the economy “.

This “cooperation is necessary, it is for the benefit of Switzerland. If there is a cooperation with Europe that works really well and that it does not destroy, it is this one”, underlined the Federal Councilor in charge of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Karin Keller-Sutter. , at a press conference.

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