Would Switzerland crash out of Schengen if Frontex referendum fails?
In the May round of Swiss referendums, citizens will be voting on the expansion of Frontex - Schengen’s international border agency. Those in favour of the expansion have argued that a failed vote would see Switzerland crash out of the Schengen agreement, meaning a return to passports and visas on the Swiss border, but is this true?
Why is Switzerland voting on Frontex?
In 2019, the EU voted to increase the funding of Frontex in order to recruit more workers and give the agency a bigger budget. Frontex is designed to assist Schengen member states in protecting their borders with non-member countries and provide support to migrants crossing said borders.
As Switzerland is a part of the 26-state bloc, this means it also needs to increase its funding of Frontex - currently calculated by gross domestic product. However, the foreign policy decision must be put to a referendum, which gives the alpine nation the opportunity to reject the expansion.
Would a rejection mean the end of Schengen in Switzerland?
While a rejection of the referendum would mean the end of the Schengen Agreement in principle - with the EU noting that nations that do not go along with the expansion will face exclusion - there would be a glimmer of hope.
If the Swiss government and EU find a solution within 90 days of the vote, Schengen will remain. However, an agreement would require the unanimous consent of the EU Commission and all EU member states, not something that is easy to achieve at the best of times.
If no agreement is reached, Switzerland will leave Schengen
If no compromise is reached, the Schengen Agreement will automatically end after three months. If the Swiss public were to reject the referendum in May, Watson noted that it was “difficult to judge” whether a compromise could be found, as so far, Switzerland has had to adopt all EU laws related to Schengen to remain part of the group.
According to the Federal Council, the end of Schengen would have “far-reaching consequences” for the country. The free movement of people, the asylum process and the import and export of vehicles, products and services would all be severely affected by a failed vote on May 15.