05.03.2015 – Law on Secondary Homes: a good compromise for an acceptable law

Only a few days ago, no one believed that a compromise could be reached on the Law on Secondary Homes, supposed to implement the Initiative on Secondary Home of Fondation Franz Weber. Discussions in Parliament had until then only been a huge disappointment: the Federal Council’s (Swiss government) project interpreted the constitutional provisions on secondary homes very freely, the Council of States (Upper house) and the Environmental Commission of the National Council (Lower house) had gone further still. The catalogue of exceptions grew longer and, final insult to the people’s will, the law was to be declared urgent. The Parliament had gone too far and a referendum by parties invested in the protection of nature and landscapes seemed unavoidable.

Compassion for the problems and challenges faced by mountain regions of Switzerland cannot justify for an initiative accepted by the Swiss people to be made completely void by Parliament. Convinced that a viable solution for the law could be found, Vera Weber, President of Fondation Franz Weber and Helvetia Nostra, reached out to the initiative’s opponents.

On Monday, March 2nd, 2015, Vera Weber signed an agreement with two conservative parties (SVP and FDP) in order to improve the law project on secondary homes, law that was meant to be discussed the following day by the National Council in plenum. The modifications that were agreed upon substantially improve the law. In compensation, Fondation Franz Weber and Helvetia Nostra commit not to launch a referendum (that is, to ask the Swiss people to vote on the law and, preferably, refuse the Parliament’s project), provided that no further exceptions be inserted into the law.

The compromise was approved by the National Council on March 3rd and 4th, 2015. A decisive step forward for the protection of the Swiss landscapes and the implementation of the people’s will! The Council of States must now examine the law once again and validate the National Council’s version. Let us hope that the Upper house will play along to prevent a referendum and strengthen the law!