Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Reasons for Swiss Criticism

Watch Prof. Christa Tobler explain why criticism of the EU is widespread in Switzerland.
Why is criticism of the European Union so widely spread in Switzerland? Probably, one of the most important reasons why so many Swiss are opposed to EU membership is the potential effect on the Swiss democratic system. They fear that accession would limit the possibilities of the Swiss people to vote on constitutional and legislative changes. In our next course week, however, we will see that it is perfectly possible to find ways to accommodate Swiss democratic procedures when we will talk about Swiss participation in the EU’s Schengen System on border control. At the same time, it is true that, should the population vote in favour of rules that infringe EU law, this would have legal consequences if Switzerland were an EU Member State.
The legal starting point here is that EU law takes precedence over national law. This is generally recognised by the Member States, though some of them have certain reservations. In practice, an infringement of EU law can have several consequences. Most importantly, if the rule of EU law meets certain conditions, the person who derives rights from it can rely on this rule in a national court. This court then cannot apply conflicting national law. This element is called the ‘direct effect of EU law.’ Next, if the infringement leads to a financial damage, the person who suffers that damage can go to a national court and ask for compensation from the state.
Further, it is possible that steps are taken on the level of the EU itself. There, one of the institutions in particular has the task of acting as a watchdog, – namely, the European Commission. The Commission can investigate infringements of EU law by the Member States, and it can bring the states to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Under certain conditions, this can lead to financial sanctions against the state concerned. All of these elements serve to ensure the enforcement of EU law. They are important factors for the supranational system of the EU.
Indeed, these are factors that make EU law much stronger than general international law, and that would have quite tangible consequences in the case of Swiss EU membership.

Switzerland remains suspicious of the legal effects of European Union (EU) membership.

European Union law is a particularly strong type of international law that has immediate effects on the national legal orders of its Member States. In Switzerland, the fear that EU membership would have a negative impact notably on the Swiss democratic system is widespread.

Having watched this video, what do you think about the elements mentioned in it (direct effect, damages action and infringement proceedings) that help to enforce EU law and about their potential effect on the Swiss democratic system?

This article is from the free online

Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now