The Council of Bernese Jura wants to achieve more autonomy within Bern, to strengthen the bilingual character of the canton, and to prevent its main town Moutier seceding. This is the current scenario that has been left in the Bernese Jura after the referendum that was held on November 24th. A large majority of voters decided then that the Bernese Jura should continue to be part of the canton of Bern and, therefore, they rejected reunification with the neighboring canton of Jura.
The Bernese Jura is a French-speaking area in northen Bern, and has limited autonomy within that canton, basically over linguistic and cultural matters. The rest of the canton of Bern (except for the bilingual town of Bienne) is German-speaking. The referendum had to determine if the Bernese Jura was to join the canton of Jura, which is French-speaking. Bernese Jurassians preferred continued membership of their region in the canton of Bern, with whom they share religion (both areas are Protestant). In contrast, the canton of Jura is mostly Catholic.
The vote result was very clear throughout the Bernese Jura except for the most populous town, Moutier, where "yes" to joining Jura won 55% of votes. Thus, Moutier has now the right to hold a municipal referendum in order to join the canton of Jura on its own and separately from the rest of the Bernese Jura. The town expects that the vote could be held in 2015.
After the referendum, the Council of the Bernese Jura has passed a statement in which the body says that it "does not wish" Moutier to leave the Bernese Jura. The Council announces a campaign "on behalf of unity" is the Moutier referendum is finally called. Moutier Mayor Maxime Zuber wants the referendum to be held anyway. If the town decides to leave Bern, then the small villages around it could change their minds and opt to join Jura along with Moutier instead of remaining in the Bernese Jura, some Swiss experts argue.
More powers for the Bernese Jura
Whatever is the Moutier final outcome, the Council wants the canton of Bern to transfer some extra powers to the Bernese Jura. In a proposal plan known as "Status Quo +", the Council is calling for new powers enabling the body to "strengthen direct partnerships" with neighbouring French-speaking cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel. Similarly, the Council wants Bern to reinforce the canton's officially bilingual character. The goal is to "strengthen the canton's cohesion and the integration of the French-speaking linguistic minority".
(Image: town of Moutier / Picture by Roland Zumbühl.)