A referendum aimed at rejecting changes to Swiss gun laws scheduled for 19 May 2019 could cause major disruption at airports in Zurich and Geneva if it succeeds, according to various newspapers.
If the vote is successful it might eventually lead to the exclusion of Switzerland from the Schengen area. If this happened, immigration staff at Swiss airports would need to check the passports of all those entering from and departing to other Schengen area countries.
The vote aims to reverse new rules on gun laws introduced by the Swiss government in September last year in response to changes in EU gun laws. According to RTS, Switzerland’s broadcaster, if the referendum succeeds, Switzerland’s membership of the Schengen area will automatically expire after six months unless a committee of Swiss and EU officials agrees to extend it within 90 days, an unrealistic scenario according to some commentators.
The Schengen area is the world’s largest visa free zone, covering most of the EU and the non-EU nations of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
In Geneva, this would mean checking the passports of an additional 5.5 million passengers, around 60% of the number passing through the airport currently, according to André Schneider, Geneva Airport’s director, who spoke to the newspaper Le Matin.
In addition, because of the way airports are currently configured, there isn’t enough space to do the checks. According to EconomieSuisse, the required reconfiguration at Zurich Airport would cost between 65 and 125 million francs.
Mr Schneider said the cost of a similar reconfiguration, which would involve removing some retailers, would cost around half the cost of the work required in Zurich.
In any case, the change wouldn’t occur quickly. “We would have to endure a long transitionary period with endless queues for passport checks”, said the airport’s director.