We will vote on the Limitation Initiative on 17 May. Not only the Federal Council but also the Swiss universities reject the initiative – for two main reasons. Firstly, the initiative abolishes the free movement of persons, which, on the other hand, is very important for our universities. To be amongst the best internationally, we need the best researchers. They are the ones who work on new ideas how to turn light and air into petrol, how paraplegics can walk again or how to make the Internet safer. The second reason for rejecting the initiative is the research agreement with the EU. This, like other tried and tested bilateral agreements with the EU, would disappear once the initiative is adopted. The consequences of remaining on the sidelines would be considerable for Switzerland as a location for research and innovation. A great deal of know-how, an irreplaceable international network and competition with the best in the world would be lost to us.
I myself have benefited greatly from the openness of Switzerland. My father grew up in Switzerland. After studying at ETH Zurich, he emigrated to Canada, where he became a professor of mathematics. 35 years later, I took the path in the opposite direction and went back to the University of Zurich as a professor. We both learned a lot abroad. And we are not the only ones. Here are two interesting facts. Firstly, Switzerland is the country with the largest proportion of foreign researchers. More than half of the people who do research here do not have a Swiss passport. On the other hand, we are also the country with the second highest proportion of scientists who emigrate, at least temporarily. One third of Swiss researchers research abroad.
This openness, this mobility of clever minds, this exchange of ideas and knowledge - they are what makes our country so successful. Our young researchers benefit from their experience abroad. And Switzerland benefits from welcoming talented foreigners. Heinrich Nestlé was German, Nicolas Hayek, the founder of Swatch, came from Lebanon. This is not any different in other countries, such as the USA. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, is South African, Google founder Sergei Brin is Russian.
It is important to me that the best ideas and the best companies are created in Switzerland. That is why I am in favour of openness and freedom, which have always been strong points of Switzerland. Already in 2014, we experienced what an adoption of the Limitation Initiative means: with the adoption of the Mass Immigration Initiative, Switzerland was excluded from the EU research programmes for more than a year. As a result, Switzerland was involved in significantly fewer international projects, and therefore significantly less attractive for young researchers. The damage to Swiss science was important. Let's not let it happen again!