Switzerland Threatened to Be Thrown Out of Schengen Area Amid Row Over EU’s Frontex Funding

© AFP 2023 / WOJTEK RADWANSKIThe logo of European Union border force Frontex is pictured at the headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, on August 5, 2019
The logo of European Union border force Frontex is pictured at the headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, on August 5, 2019 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.05.2022
In January, a Swiss referendum on Frontex was triggered by those who'd reacted angrily to last year’s decision by the country’s lawmakers to more than double Bern’s funding for the EU’s border agency over the next five years.
Brussels has threatened to kick Switzerland out of the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone if Bern fails to pay more to the bloc’s border agency Frontex.
The threat comes as citizens of Switzerland will vote in the Sunday referendum on whether the country’s financial injections into Frontex should be increased or not. Switzerland is part of the borderless Schengen area and contributes to the funding of the EU’s border agency.
The bloc’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson warned earlier in the day that Schengen was not an “à-la-carte menu”.
“The consequence [of voting No] could be the end of the Schengen and Dublin accords for Switzerland”, she said, referring to the rules which allow members to send migrants back to the first member country they arrived in.
This followed Swiss media reporting that the increase in Frontex’s budget means the rise in Switzerland’s contribution to the border agency from CHF24 million ($25 million) to CHF61 million ($60 million) a year.
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The Swiss government in turn argued that a “No” vote would exacerbate further the already strained relations between Bern and Brussels, amid reports that the rise in Switzerland’s payments to the border agency is expected to be approved during the “Frontex-it” referendum.
The vote was previously triggered by Switzerland’s alliance of NGOs and politicians from the country’s Social Democrats and Green Party, which accuses Frontex of building a brutal “Fortress Europe” to keep migrants out. A total of 62,000 signatures were collected by January to announce the referendum, in line with the Swiss system of direct democracy.
Frontex has repeatedly been criticised over being involved in alleged human right abuses, and the head of the border agency, Fabrice Leggeri, stepped down last month after a probe found that Frontex was involved in illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers who attempted to enter EU countries.
In late February, the European People's party (EPP) urged the EU to review its ties with Switzerland and consider if the country should be added to the bloc's money-laundering blacklist amid fallout from a huge leak of Credit Suisse banking data.
The leak, dubbed "Suisse Secrets", contained info that one of the world's most iconic private banks managed accounts for human rights abusers, fraudsters, and businessmen who were placed under sanctions. Switzerland's government reacted by asserting at the time that the country meets international standards when it comes to exchanges of tax information, as well as the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing, and corruption.
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