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PICTURED: KEYSTONE

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Why I dthree years after MEII'm still a skeptic about immigration

The adoption of the mass immigration initiative has shaken Switzerland. Three years after the vote, there is still no substantial debate on immigration and its consequences. That could take revenge.

“The clever one travels on the train” is the SBB's best-known slogan. It was created in the 1950s. Today the train traveler often has to ask himself whether he is still completely at ease. At many train stations, commuters jam in the underpasses and on the platforms during rush hour. It looks worst in Lenzburg in Aargau. “The situation there is on the border,” said the SBB division manager in charge of “NZZ am Sonntag” last year.

Anyone who knows the Lenzburg train station is not surprised. The platform between platforms 2 and 3 is narrow, and at the same time the express trains whiz past here on the east-west axis. It can get tricky there. For security reasons, the SBB demolished the bus shelter to make room. An expansion and renovation of the train station would be necessary, but that will not start before 2022. The situation is also precarious at other train stations in Aargau, the commuter canton par excellence.

The number of commuters is increasing, the train stations are getting crowded.Image: KEYSTONE

The diagnosis is simple: the train stations are frequented by crowds for which they were not built. But the cause is hardly discussed. She is the elephant in the room that everyone perceives, but nobody talks about it. The strong population growth in recent years has brought the infrastructures in Switzerland to the limit. The cause is immigration, due to the free movement of people with the European Union.

Anyone who turns a blind eye to problems experiences a rude awakening at some point. This is exactly what happened three years ago, with the adoption of the mass immigration initiative.

For many, the result came as a shock. You could see it coming. Back then, in one of my first articles for watson, I described how I went from being a proponent of immigration to being a skeptic. My criticism was primarily aimed at the ignorance and arrogance of the elites in politics, business and the media towards the negative consequences of migration.

I didn't just make friends with the text, to put it nicely. The result of the vote confirmed me in a way that I would rather not have seen. Was the MEI shock at least beneficial? Definitely on one point: The unreflected hymns of praise for immigration and the belittling of its “side effects” have largely disappeared.

Small-scale Switzerland has no capacity for nine or ten million inhabitants. Expanding the infrastructure is difficult and expensive.

But what exactly happened? The results are sobering, and that is why I have no reason to revise my skepticism after the three-year implementation period has expired. Parliament has passed an implementation proposal with hanging and choking. The media coverage of this topic, however, bears no relation to the meager result. It is disappointing even in view of the requirement not to endanger the bilateral agreements with the EU in any way.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga had originally announced strict implementation. Now she hides behind the parliament and defends the toothless implementation in the SRF interview with the argument: "Other states envy us for that." What should they envy us for? The so-called "priority for residents" is not at all. It is a sectoral priority for the unemployed that will have almost no impact on immigration.

In 2016, the resident population grew by 60,000 net. That is less than a few years ago, but these people too have to be "absorbed" by the housing and labor market. It may be that the steep rise in rents has flattened out since 2015. In the large centers and agglomerations, however, the situation has eased at most in the luxury apartment segment. Affordable accommodation can be found in places like Egerkingen, as the “Tages-Anzeiger” reported. The Solothurn community is conveniently located in terms of transport, but who wants to live there?

The compatibility of work and family remains a problem for many women. And many are still afraid of being forced out of the labor market in old age.

Commuting is not only tedious in the congested train stations and in the often overcrowded public transport. The number of hours of traffic jams on the motorways is increasing every year. It cannot be denied: the small-scale Switzerland has no capacity for nine or ten million inhabitants. Expanding the infrastructure is difficult and expensive. The trains cannot be lengthened indefinitely, and “compact building” is a good thing as long as it doesn't take place in front of your own nose.

The Kalkbreite Cooperative in Zurich, a prime example of chic, compact living

In any case, many people do not dream of living in hipster cooperatives like Kalkbreite in Zurich. The Credit Suisse youth barometer shows the same picture every year: The ideal living space for young people is a single-family home, if possible with a change. In the large agglomerations, however, the dream of a “Hüsli” is hardly affordable for normal wage earners. That could only be changed if the Central Plateau were concreted over.

Has the situation on the labor market at least calmed down? After all, the shortage of skilled workers is a constant issue. The reality is a less clear picture, as the SRF show «Eco» reported. Skilled workers in Switzerland are unemployed because large companies in particular pre-sort applications using algorithms. If you don't match the job profile 100 percent, you have no chance. In such cases, recruiting is often carried out abroad.

After the MEI vote, a better exploitation of the local workforce was promised. Economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, however, leaves the impression on this subject that he has to deal with a criminal task. Accordingly, little has happened, for example in efforts to make it easier for women to combine work and family. And many are still afraid of being forced out of the labor market in old age.

The Swiss know that their model of prosperity depends on immigration. But they are not comfortable with it. This leads to a schizophrenic attitude. A survey by “SonntagsBlick” last September shows that a majority supports the bilateral agreements and the free movement of persons. At the same time, a relative majority would accept the SVP initiative again. Another survey confirmed this finding at the beginning of the year.

An established population is - also mentally - ready to accept new people only to a certain extent.

There is explosive in these survey results. The mood could change again at any time, a repetition of the debacle of 2014 is absolutely possible. The MEI vote was a forerunner of Brexit and the Trump election - there, too, it was not least about migration. It is a fact that many multicultural romantics like to ignore: An ancestral population is only ready to accept new people to a certain extent - also mentally.

If we keep talking around the bush on the subject of immigration and refuse to enter into a substantial debate, it will eventually take revenge. Perhaps on Sunday when the vote on corporate tax reform III. Many proponents hope that it will lead to the settlement of new companies. They just don't say it as loudly as they used to.

The most provocative SVP voting posters

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