Swiss voters were invited to decide by referendum several questions that they answered yes to on Sunday, May 15, according to preliminary estimates. Thus voters agreed not to turn their backs on the European border agency Frontex, to oblige broadcasting services to invest in Swiss audiovisual, as well as a proposal to increase organ donations thanks to the transition to a supposed consent model. Final results will be announced at the end of the day.
Relief loomed in Bern and Brussels, as the Swiss agreed, according to first trends, their country’s participation in strengthening the controversial Frontex agency, a reform approved by the European Parliament four years after the migration crisis in 2015. It further weakened relations between Switzerland and the EU The European Union, which has been tense since Bern suddenly decided, in May 2021, to end years of discussions for an institutional agreement with this bloc of countries.
The Frontex reform aims to provide it with a permanent European corps of 10,000 border and coast guards by 2027. Currently, the agency has more than 1,500 agents from various member states, and is regularly accused, particularly by NGOs, of illegal refoulement practices. For migrants, its French president, Fabrice Leggerie, resigned at the end of April after an investigation by the European Anti-fraud Office.
Switzerland is expected to create more staff – about 40 positions at most, up from about six currently – and increase its annual financial contribution to 61 million Swiss francs (58 million euros) from 24 million in 2021. But a committee that includes various NGOs Help immigrants, environmental parties and left-wing parties initiated a referendum against the draft government and parliament.
However, the government warned the population that in case of refusal, the union’s cooperation with the Schengen and Dublin states could end automatically. Right-wing parties have also lent their support to Swiss participation in the development of Frontex, including the centrist Democratic Union of the far-right camp, which is in principle against the signing of any agreement between Switzerland and the European Union.
The new audiovisual regulations, called “Lex Netflix,” will force streaming platforms to invest 4% of their sales in Switzerland in national creation, by co-production or by paying a tax that will be used to support cinema. Since 2007, national television channels must invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss film creativity.
This obligation applies to foreign channels that broadcast Swiss advertising sites, such as TF1 and M6.
Film creativity – which in recent years has benefited from an average annual funding of 105 million francs (101 million euros) – should receive an additional 18 million francs a year thanks to the reform, according to the Federal Office for Culture. Streaming platforms will also have to offer 30% European content, as is already the case in the European Union.
For reform advocates, shooting more films in Switzerland would benefit the local economy, while boosting the competitiveness of national film production against European countries already implementing an investment commitment.
The opposing camp brandished the threat of higher subscription prices, and argued that the share of European films would penalize production from elsewhere and set a dangerous precedent for music streaming services.
The Swiss also agreed to the proposal to increase organ donations by switching to a presumed consent model, as in France, a principle denounced by some who raise an ethical problem. Until now, a person wishing to donate his organs had to give his consent during his lifetime. From now on, those who do not wish to donate their organs will have to expressly indicate this.
Over the past five years, around 450 people a year in Switzerland – which has a population of more than 8.6 million members – have received one or more deceased persons. But at the end of 2021, there were more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Last year, 72 people died while waiting for a donation, according to the national Swisstransplant.
At the moment, it often happens that the will of the person in question is unknown. So the decision is up to the relatives. In most cases, they are against organ donation, according to the authorities. The Swisstransplant Foundation explains that the rejection rate of more than 60% observed during interviews with relatives is among the highest in Europe, although surveys show that 80% of the Swiss population is in favor of organ donation.
According to the Swiss authorities, most European countries, notably France, Italy, Austria and Spain, apply the presumed consent model, recording on average a higher percentage of donations than Switzerland.