Towards Executive-Branch Empowerment in the Case of Swiss Migration Agreements and EFTA/Swiss PTAs

This project’s baseline hypothesis is that norm diffusion occurs in the field of migration, when there are control dilemmas which liberal democracies will seek to avoid by shifting the locus of immigration regulation from legislated immigration laws norms which are the outcome of executive-branch empowerment.

This project looks into control dilemmas as rationale for norm diffusion in migration by drawing on a case study of executive-branch empowerment in the case of Swiss migration agreements and EFTA/Swiss PTAs. It will be based on the finding by Guiraudon and Joppke (2001) that in globalising democracies migration regulation creates “control dilemmas” - the fact that there are strict migration controls for lower skilled workers but that the same government may escape populist anti-immigrant sentiment and local constituency control by liberalising labour mobility of highly skilled workers through PTAs, which do not need legislative approval and can often be concluded by the executive branch of government without the need of parliamentary control.


It departs from the hypothesis that in Switzerland the field of migration has not yet been captured fully by “client lobbies”, such as employers as in Scandinavian countries, or that there is an autonomous judiciary as in Germany operating independently of the legislator (Guiraudon and Joppke, 2001). Rather, as demonstrated by Art. 100 of the Swiss Foreigners Law, which empowers the executive branch to conclude migration agreements, the executive branch has successfully secured a variety of treaty types as venues for liberal immigration policies outside the purview of the legislator (Panizzon, 2010b). In addition to the wide panoply of bilateral migration agreements, the Swiss federal council has recently resorted to PTAs, which Switzerland concludes either on its own (Japan) or within the framework of EFTA and which have in the cases of Korea and Japan also been used as venues to liberalise labour mobility.