Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Swiss voters on Sunday backed making streaming services pay to boost Swiss film-making, and funding the expansion of Europe's Frontex border agency, thereby avoiding another row with Brussels, according to projected results.

The Swiss national flag blows in the wind
Swiss people went to the polls on Sunday to vote on three key issues. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Market researchers GFS Bern, who conducted the main polling throughout the campaign, projected that 58 percent of voters backed the so-called “Lex Netflix”.

They said 72 percent backed Switzerland joining the planned ramping up of Frontex, providing more money and staff to protect the continent’s Schengen open-borders zone.

And 59 percent approved a law change that would automatically register individuals as organ donors after death, unless they opt out.

Under the wealthy Alpine nation’s direct democracy system, voters are called to the polls four times a year to decide on specific topics, according to popular demand.

The polls closed at midday (1000 GMT), with most ballots having already been sent in by post over the past four weeks.

The results are due later Sunday, with each of the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons reporting their results in turn.

Lex Netflix
The “Lex Netflix” vote approves an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

Since 2007, domestic television broadcasters have been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

The amendment was brought forward to reflect the dramatic shift in how audio-visual content is now consumed, with global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue now making hundreds of millions of dollars in
Switzerland each year.

Streaming services will now have to submit to the four-percent rule.

Swiss cinema production pulls in around 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) a year, according to the culture ministry — but could now be in line for an additional 18 million francs.

The platforms will also be required to ensure that European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as in the neighbouring European Union.

Right-leaning opponents had collected enough signatures to take the change to a referendum.

Transplant laws
The vote on changing the organ donation laws will see everyone become a potential donor after death unless they have expressly opted out.

Up to now, transplants were only possible if the donor clearly consented before they died.

The government and parliament wanted to change the law to a “presumed consent” model — as used in a number of other European countries.

Relatives will still have the right of refusal if they suspected that the deceased would not have wanted to be an organ donor.

A group of opponents, backed by the populist and religious right, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 patients were awaiting transplant organs in Switzerland, a country of around 8.6 million people. 

But 72 people died last year while on the waiting list, according to the Swisstransplant organisation.

Frontexit averted
Ties between Brussels and Bern have been strained since May 2021 when non-EU Switzerland suddenly decided to end years of discussion towards a broad cooperation agreement with the bloc.

The clear support for Frontex has avoided aggravating the stand-off.

Under Europe’s expansion plan, Frontex will have a permanent contingent of 10,000 border guards and coast guards.

Switzerland will nearly triple its financial contribution to Frontex to 61 million Swiss francs ($61 million, 58 million euros) annually, and increase its personnel contribution from six people to around 40.

Migrant support organisations, backed by left-leaning political parties, collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

The government warned voters that if they rejected the expansion, Switzerland risked automatic exclusion from the Schengen area.


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Buy American? Biden pushes US fighter jets in talks with Swiss

US President Joe Biden sang the praises Tuesday of two US-made fighter jets in the running for a major contract to replace Switzerland's fleet, his Swiss counterpart said.

Buy American? Biden pushes US fighter jets in talks with Swiss

“Mr. Biden recalled the excellent quality of the two US planes” — the F35 made by Lockheed Martin and the F/A 18 made by Boeing, Swiss President Guy Parmelin told reporters after meeting with the US leader in Geneva. Biden is due to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the city on Wednesday.

The two US fighters are competing against the Rafale, made by French company Dassault, and the Eurofighter by Airbus, to replace its ageing fleet of F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 Hornets — both US-made.

“I reminded him that we have a process under way, which was decided on long ago, and that the government will reach its decision based on the process currently under way,” Parmelin said.

According to Swiss media, a decision is expected on June 23 on who gets the contract, worth 6.0 billion Swiss francs ($6.7 billion, 5.5 billion euros).

Switzerland’s long-standing position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

How does Switzerland feel about US fighter jets?

In 2020, Switzerland held a referendum on purchasing fighter jets. 

Swiss voters narrowly approved the proposal to spend CHF6 billion on new fighter jets.

The vote was far closer than expected, with under 9,000 votes nationwide deciding the question. 

This should put an end to a more than decade-long debate about replacing Switzerland’s ageing fleet of jets, although another vote could be held once the government determines which planes it is looking to buy.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland holding a referendum on purchasing fighter jets?

However, voters said they were reluctant to buy from the US – at least under former President Donald Trump. 

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes