The defense minister of Switzerland, Ueli Maurer believes that ‘only a lunatic country would join the European Union’ in its current state. Talking to a German news weekly Die Zeit, he said that Europe has passed its high point.
“Nobody still in possession of their marbles wants to join the EU. This alliance of states has lost much of its credibility. We are the best economy in the world. People admire our democracy; we are a country with many virtues. We are actually the model for the future. Sharing responsibility with the people – that is the future.” Maurer thinks that Europe is in turmoil because of its own sense of irresponsibility; nobody else is responsible (especially not Switzerland).
Lausanne-based MIS Research Institute conducted a survey in May, which shows that over 80 percent Swiss population is against joining EU. Polls in Germany show a similar percentage of citizens opposed to bailouts, and giving more powers to the EU.
There are three things that are important to understand here.
One, Switzerland is enjoying better access to the EU marketplace as a result of the bilateral agreements. With the refusal of EU to enter into further bilateral agreements, that advantage will be wiped out, and the attitude of Swiss citizens may change.
Two, when the Eurozone has overcome the problems of PIIGS countries, and I anticipate sooner or later it will, the EU will become more attractive to the Swiss.
Three, I agree with Maurer’s statement that a prosperous country would not join EU in the current state. However, joining EU can still open opportunities for Balkan states and other less prosperous countries. As a country, there may be downsides. But when you think at the individual level, it’s a door to new opportunities.
Think about it, if you can’t find work in Hungary, there’s no restriction on you going to find a job elsewhere in Europe. Now imagine you’re highly educated but hold a non-EU passport. You don’t have that right to move anywhere in Europe, even though you’ll probably bring more value to the host country in the long run.
So, to me, joining EU seems reasonable if a country isn’t doing well on its own. However, if your Switzerland it might be a crazy idea.