Schengen/Dublin: economically and financially positive for Switzerland

Bern, 22.02.2018 - At its meeting on 21 February 2018, the Federal Council adopted a report on the economic and financial consequences of Schengen/Dublin. The report concludes that Switzerland's participation in Schengen/Dublin is positive both from an economic and a financial perspective: the Schengen visa system and the abandonment of systematic border controls at internal borders, making travel easier, are of great importance for the Swiss economy, especially the border regions and the tourism sector. Because of the savings made possible by Dublin in the area of asylum, Schengen/Dublin has also been positive in financial terms.

The Federal Council's report in fulfilment of postulate 15.3896 by the Social Democratic parliamentary group was drawn up by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) with all federal agencies involved. In order to determine the economic impact of Schengen/Dublin, the consultancy and research firm Ecoplan was commissioned to prepare a corresponding economic study, the results of which are included in the report.

The economic effects of Schengen/Dublin
The main economic effects of the Schengen/Dublin association agreements can be seen in the areas of border control and visas: if Switzerland were to withdraw from Schengen/Dublin, neighbouring states would have to carry out systematic border controls at the new external Schengen border with Switzerland. This would lead to significant waiting times and congestion at border crossings. The abandonment of the Schengen visa would mean that visitors from countries subject to a visa obligation would need to obtain an additional visa to travel to Switzerland, with corresponding consequences for Switzerland as attractive location for tourists, business and scientific innovation.

The Ecoplan study shows that withdrawal from the Schengen/Dublin association agreements would have major negative impacts on the Swiss economy: for the year 2030, such a step would result in an annual loss of income for the Swiss economy of between CHF 4.7 and 10.7 billion, depending on the calculated variant, which corresponds to a 1.6% to 3.7% fall in GDP. Foreign trade would also decline, affecting exports more than imports. The urban border regions of Basel, Geneva and Ticino, and Swiss tourist destinations that receive large numbers of visitors from countries subject to a visa obligation (e.g. the Jungfrau region, Zermatt and central Switzerland), would bear the economic brunt.

The financial effects of Schengen/Dublin
The report covers the years 2012 to 2016 and compares available data on costs and savings. Switzerland's association with the Schengen area resulted in an average cost for the public sector of around CHF 53 million a year during the reporting period. This money is mainly being used to operate and further develop information systems in the areas of police cooperation (Schengen Information System SIS) and visas (Visa Information System VIS), and for Switzerland's participation in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and the External Borders Fund (EBF, now the Internal Security Fund).

Dublin, on the other hand, enables Switzerland to make substantial savings in the area of asylum, which exceed the Schengen-related costs many times over. These savings result from the fact that Switzerland transfers significantly more people to other Dublin states than it takes from them. The corresponding savings have averaged around CHF 270 million a year.

Overall, Switzerland therefore saved around CHF 220 million a year between 2012 and 2016 as a result of Schengen/Dublin. However, these figures do not in themselves provide a complete picture. Withdrawal from the Schengen/Dublin association agreements would entail additional costs for Switzerland: the absence of Schengen instruments in the area of police cooperation would also lead to substantial gaps in terms of internal security, as Switzerland would no longer have access to the data of the SIS wanted/missing persons system, the VIS visa database or the Eurodac fingerprint database. These instruments have proved to be an indispensable and irreplaceable tool in the fight against transnational organised crime. As part of the European security area, Switzerland benefits from the interconnectedness of the Schengen states, the automatic exchange of data and integration in the SIS wanted/missing persons system (over 15,000 SIS identifications a year). Ensuring the highest possible level of internal security without Schengen cooperation would require taking other security measures, with corresponding cost implications. Such measures could easily entail additional annual costs of approximately CHF 400 to 500 million.

Added value through Schengen/Dublin in other areas
The benefits of Schengen/Dublin go beyond purely monetary aspects: because the borders between Switzerland and neighbouring countries can be crossed practically without hindrance thanks to Schengen, urban border regions have grown even closer together in recent years. For Switzerland, this means that in metropolitan regions such as Geneva and Basel, living and economic environments have emerged that straddle two or three different countries. Without the Schengen/Dublin association agreements, Switzerland's national borders would once again become economic and residential boundaries.

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