By participating in securing European borders, Switzerland is not only paying for others, according to the PLR national adviser from Neuchâtel. It reinforces at the same time, and in an important way, its own interests.
Damien Cottier national adviser PLR/NE
On May 15, Switzerland is called upon to decide on its participation in the development of Frontex. Frontex is the European agency responsible for defending the external borders of the Schengen area, with which Switzerland is associated. Frontex’s mission includes the coordination of the border guards of the Member States, the provision of equipment and personnel, but also the operation of security or rescue checks. However, the means available to Frontex to carry out its operations are proving insufficient, which is why the European Union (EU) has decided to increase them. As an associated state, Switzerland contributes to this increase.
Switzerland’s financial support is precisely linked to its gross domestic product and amounts to approximately 24 million francs in 2021. If accepted by the people, Switzerland’s annual contribution will gradually increase each year to reach 61 million per year from 2027, which will correspond to 4.6% of the agency’s overall budget. Although this amount may seem considerable to some, it is nevertheless essential to emphasize the significant benefits of Frontex-Schengen for our security and our economy. Indeed, Frontex being part of the Schengen Agreement, if we refuse to participate, we will be excluded from the Schengen Area within 6 months.
Huge fees ahead
Firstly, the tourism sector depends on the association of Switzerland in Schengen. Thanks to the free movement of people and the European visa regime, a visitor from another continent can, for example, easily come and stay in Switzerland before going to Italy. Travelers from China, the United States or the Gulf countries spend on average between 310 and 420 francs per person per day in our country. Such stays create a gross value of 1.1 billion francs annually and maintain 162,000 jobs. Schengen is therefore crucial for our tourism.
Furthermore, free movement and the opening of borders also benefit our businesses which, in border regions, need commuter workers living in neighboring countries. The closing of borders during the pandemic has shown the difficulties linked to the workforce, for example hospitals in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Jura or Neuchâtel, a large part of whose staff live in neighboring France (60% for the HUG, for example). Without Schengen, massive investments would also have to be made in infrastructure, such as airports: from 65 to 125 million francs would be needed, just to reorganize the terminals of Zurich airport for systematic customs checks. Schengen is therefore crucial for our security and prosperity.
“The requested funding […] is a small investment compared to the positive benefits for our economy, our security and compared to the investments that would be necessary to manage our borders alone.”
Finally, the Dublin Agreement, which regulates asylum applications at European level, and which is linked to Schengen, allows the management of the arrival of applicants between Member States. Without Schengen-Dublin, asylum seekers turned back by European states could file a second application in Switzerland, which is currently impossible. Switzerland would then see a drastic increase in the number of requests and this would inevitably have costs: it would have to invest between 350 million and 1.332 billion per year for reception structures, trained personnel, etc. Schengen-Dublin is therefore crucial for a coordinated management of asylum.
In summary, the funding requested for the development of Frontex is a small investment compared to the positive benefits for our economy, our security and compared to the investments that would be necessary to manage our borders alone; an option that seems unrealistic as our economy is linked to that of our neighbors and the EU. In view of these arguments, I invite everyone to vote YES at Frontex-Schengen on 15 May; it is crucial to our security and prosperity.
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