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SWISS REFERENDUM

REACTION: How Switzerland responded to Sunday’s referendum results

Swiss voters have accepted all three legislative proposals put forth by the Federal Council — the organ donation, Lex Netflix and Frontex. This is what Switzerland decided along with what supporters and opponents say about the results.

REACTION: How Switzerland responded to Sunday’s referendum results
A sign in French-speaking Switzerland ahead of May 15th referendum says "We vote on Sunday". Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Swiss law requires a referendum when a proposal for a law change made by the government is opposed by enough voters. 

With all three initiatives proposed by the government solidly backed by the voters, “the authorities won everything this Sunday”, commented The Tribune de Genève.

“After the Covid years which kept the government away from the people, this is a rejoicing signal.”

This is how the “for” and “against” camps reacted to the outcome.

Organ donation

The government’s plan of “presumed consent” in organ transplants was approved by 60.20 percent of voters.

For Manuel Pascual, director of the transplant centre at the Vaud University Hospital (CHUV), the vote is a “paradigm shift in changing the approach to organ donation and transplant medicine”.

He added that “the safeguards are there so that there are no abuses”.

“The clear result in favour of presumed consent shows the strong disposition of the Swiss for organ donation. But it will be necessary to continue to convince and reassure [the public]”, said MP Michel Matter.

However, those against the law, like the Swiss People Party (SVP), argue that the notion of presumed consent — meaning that viable organs could be removed from deceased people who did not specify their opposition to being donors their during their lifetime — “restricts the freedoms and individual responsibility of citizens and strengthens the hold of the state on our private lives”.

And SVP president Marco Chiesa called the measure “too radical”.

You can read more about what the new legislation proposes here:

EXPLAINED: What Switzerland’s ‘organ donation’ vote means for you

Lex Netflix 

With the 58.42-percent approval rate, this legislation increases in costs of streaming services in Switzerland,  alongside significant programming changes.

Supporters such as the Social Democratic Party see the referendum outcome as  a “strong signal for the cultural and linguistic diversity of our country”, as the new law stipulates that streaming platforms should contribute 4 percent of their profits to support domestic film-making, and that 30 percent of the content of streaming services must consist of films or series produced in Europe.

READ MORE:  What is the ‘Netflix vote’ and how could it change TV in Switzerland?

“Culture has a profoundly public service role, because it must serve to connect all of our diverse populations in Switzerland”, according to MP Ada Marra.

However, Matthias Müller, head of the opposition committee, pointed out that the ‘yes’ vote will have consequences for all streaming services subscribers, as Netflix and other platforms “will pass the costs on to consumers”.

Frontex

The so-called “border vote” has obtained the highest approval of all the issues at the ballot box: 71,48 percent said ‘yes’ to Switzerland’s expanded participation in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which monitors the external borders of the Schengen area.

READ MORE: Frontex: How Switzerland’s ‘border vote’ on May 15th could impact travel

Jürg Grossen, president of the Liberal Green party said voters’ approval “is a clear signal” for a stronger collaboration between Switzerland and Europe.

And for MP Damien Cottier,  “it is a good thing for Switzerland that we have not added a difficulty in the relationship with the EU”.

The EU Commission also expressed its satisfaction with the result.

Opponents, however, were dismayed with the decision, saying that “Frontex is responsible for the violent policy carried out against migrants at the external borders of the EU” and is complicit “in human rights violations and unlawful deportations”.

Therefore, “this result is disappointing and even shameful for a country that claims to follow the rule of law and a humanitarian tradition”, said Sophie Guignard, a member of the opposition committee.

 “It amounts in a way to turning a blind eye to an inhumane policy”

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SWISS REFERENDUM

First same-sex couples get married in Switzerland

The first same-sex couples tied the knot in Switzerland on Friday following a referendum that changed the landscape for gay rights in the country.

First same-sex couples get married in Switzerland

 Among the first to get married were Aline, 46, and Laure, 45, who have been together for 21 years and converted their civil union into marriage at the plush Palais Eynard in Geneva.

Beneath a sparkling chandelier in a mirrored salon, and with a dozen or so close friends and family in attendance, the couple exchanged touching words recalling their years together and love for each other.

Holding hands throughout the ceremony, they signed the official documents, followed by their witnesses.

“I am now very pleased to announce that you are officially married,” said the Mayor of Geneva, Marie Barbey-Chappuis, who conducted the first ceremony in person.

READ MORE: ‘Deviance and morality’: The history of the same-sex marriage movement in Switzerland

The room burst into applause as the couple exchanged a kiss.

“It was very moving. It’s a big moment and sends a very strong message to society — being free to love and be loved,” Barbey-Chappuis told AFP afterwards.

“The symbolism was particularly strong and the emotion too”.

It was high time that marriage became perfectly equal in Switzerland. “It marks a moment in the history of Switzerland and of the institution of marriage.”

Switzerland is one of the last remaining western European nations to adopt same-sex marriages. The Netherlands was the first to make the change in 2001.

The Swiss government’s plans to introduce “marriage for all” were challenged by opponents, who successfully triggered a referendum on the issue that was held last September. But 64.1 percent of voters backed the introduction of same-sex marriage in he wealthy Alpine nation.

Switzerland decriminalised homosexuality in 1942. Before Friday, same-sex  couples could only register a civil partnership. However, that status does not provide the same rights as marriage, including for obtaining citizenship and the joint adoption of children.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Switzerland in July 2022

Same-sex couples can now marry in civil ceremonies and enjoy the same rights as other married couples.

Same-sex foreign spouses are now eligible to apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure and same-sex couples are now permitted to adopt jointly.

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