This article analyses how Europeanisation affects the power resources of social democratic forces in Switzerland. Whereas political economy arguments would assume that processes of internationalisation invariably weaken social democratic parties and trade unions, we argue that they can also empower them in certain circumstances. Detailed case studies of decision-making processes in Switzerland show that Europeanisation does not coincide with a weaker position of social democrats. On the contrary, they are stronger in Europeanised issues because they can take advantage of increased conflicts within right-wing political forces, be it among political elites or between the elites and their electoral base.
Scholarship about both politics and policy tends to represent tools of direct democracy as veto points that are used to prevent policy change. In this study, we move beyond this unidimensional view and explain the conditions under which instruments of direct democracy can be conducive to policy change. We investigate both the direct and indirect effects of citizens’ initiatives to show that, under certain conditions, these can provide an opportunity for incremental yet potentially transformative policy change. We offer a systematic and comparative assessment of the policy effects generated by a set of European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs). ECIs provide an ideal setting for uncovering the potential indirect policy effects since they are not legally binding. Interestingly, some ECIs had tangible effects on EU policies, and these effects materialised over time and at different levels of the EU’s political system, and can be regarded as building blocks for potentially transformative policy change.