This week the Happy Valley correspondent makes solemn predictions for 2016.
1. More departures.
Expect more multinationals to depart or trim staff as the franc remains strong, and company tax deals come closer to their end dates. Add to that the possibility of further own-goals relating to all things foreign.
2. More damaging referendum outcomes.
The Swiss tradition of putting decisions both incredibly simple and incredibly complicated directly to the vox populi will continue into 2016, with a referendum on 4 issues set for February 28. One of those 4 issues will be about foreigners. This time, it’s a replay of a referendum from 2010, calling for the expulsion from Swiss soil of foreign criminals. The new referendum is meant to put further pressure on the government by those who feel that the measures enacted after the (successful) 2010 popular vote were too soft. More entertainingly, it also gives us the chance to see whether the expected wave of UDC / SVP posters will top the “Swiss blond woman bound, gagged and threatened by black figures from the EU” that we saw for the October elections. Your correspondent remains skeptical – but fingers crossed!
As for the initiative, its backers believe that a successful vote will address the “light sentencing” and “mass, uncontrolled immigration” which they claim has resulted in 7 out of 10 Swiss prisoners being “foreigners”; the government, meanwhile, opposes the measure, calling out (among other reasons) that (a) this kind of approach is incompatible with Swiss democracy; (b) the measure lacks proportionality — the initiative would include, for example, less severe, but recurring criminal activities; and (c) it would curtail the ability of the courts to take extenuating circumstances into account. Interestingly, there now appears to be some dissent within the UDC /SVP as to whether the expulsion rule should also apply to Swiss-born residents, but without Swiss nationality. Nonetheless, your correspondent predicts that the vote will succeed, again giving brand Switzerland a knock. If time allows, do check out the Confederation website for more details on the four issues being put to vote – the complexity is impressive.
3. Emptier hotels.
Due to the strong franc expect as well to see fewer tourists this year experiencing the delights of the Valley. Bonus: we might see more reasonable hotel rates and service improve as hotels realise the need to make more effort to retain their customers. Negative: anecdotes about poor Swiss service that are normally used to entertain fellow expats will potentially become rare, creating moments of awkward silence at dinner parties from Zurich to Geneva.
4. But no real change – really.
Despite the headwinds expected, the Valley will nonetheless remain largely as it always has been: a geographic version of comfort food. Think contentment, tranquility, a haven versus the turmoil surrounding us — and a resistance to change.
And with that, your correspondent wishes you all a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2016!
By The Happy Valley Correspondent