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Voters to decide on “Swiss team, not foreign judges” proposals

ZURICH (Reuters) – The Swiss poll on Sunday on a proposal to give Swiss legislation a clear priority over international…

ZURICH (Reuters) – The Swiss poll on Sunday on a proposal to give Swiss legislation a clear priority over international law – a refugee strike says strengthening its sovereignty but what critics claim would severely damage its ties with the rest of the world.

The measure “Swiss law, not foreign judges” requires that a provision be added to the national constitution that expresses precedence over international agreements.

If there is a link between the two, Switzerland would need to update its international obligations to comply with its constitution. If no agreement is reached, the country can terminate the international agreement, says the referendum, also called the self-determination initiative.

Backers claims that neutral Switzerland’s historic autonomy is being watered by its participation in international agreements covering areas such as environmental protection, police cooperation, air transport and trade.

Their campaign, spun by politicians from the Right Swiss People’s Party (SVP), said that such arrangements endanger the long tradition of direct democracy in Switzerland, where citizens have the last statement of political decisions through referendums.

“Our voting rights should continue to apply in the future,” said Magdalena Martullo-Blocher, a SVP member of the Swiss Parliament and daughter of billionaire Christoph Blocher, former vice president of the party and its most prominent figure.

“Direct democracy is a cornerstone of Switzerland as a business place.”

Debate on sovereignty has been intensified in recent years, as Switzerland is struggling to clarify its relationship with the European Union, currently governed by a troll of various bilateral covenants.

SVP, the largest party in the Swiss Parliament and holders of two of the seven seats in the Swiss cabinet, said the initiative would give citizens and free them from interference from international bodies such as the EU.

They oppose the Swiss government, corporate groups and most other parties who say that the proposal would force Switzerland to repeal existing treaties, weaken human rights protection and damage its economy.

They say that a “yes” vote would mean that Switzerland has to renegotiate thousands of treaties it has signed, which undermines an open economy that is heavily dependent on global trade.

“The international position in Switzerland would be hurt,” says Jan Atteslander from the business lobby group Economiesuisse.

“Other countries may doubt whether Switzerland would stick to their words or fulfill their obligations in the future.”

A vote shows that the referendum is likely to fail, with 58 percent of respondents on a Tamedia questionnaire saying they opposed it and a survey by the market researcher GFS Bern for SRF put the opposition to 61

percent.

Switzerland will also vote on Sunday to subsidize farmers who allow cows and goats to grow their horns naturally, among debates as to whether the practice of removing horns hurt the animals.

Reporting by John Revill; editing by Andrew Roche

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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