25th Mar 2018

EU and Switzerland agree on free movement

  • (Photo: Patrick Nouhailler)

The EU approved a new Swiss law on Thursday (22 December) that will allow EU citizens to work in Switzerland, opening the way to solve a two-year crisis.

An EU-Swiss joint committee, where all 28 EU states are represented, said that the law passed last Friday in the Swiss parliament would limit the effect of a 2014 referendum to introduce immigration quotas into the Swiss constitution.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

One of the consequences of the referendum would have been to limit the free movement of EU workers to Switzerland, a member of the passport-free Schengen area.

In retaliation, the European Commission suspended Switzerland's participation in the EU research and student programmes, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.

Since the referendum, Brussels and Bern have been discussing to find how legislation to implement the constitutional amendment could respect both the outcome of the popular vote and EU free movement rules.

Last Friday, the Swiss parliament adopted a bill that gives priority to Swiss-based job seekers - Swiss nationals and foreigners registered in Swiss job agencies - but which avoids quotas on EU citizens.

'Progress in relations'

Also on Friday, the Swiss government signed an agreement extending the free movement of workers principle to Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013. The accord, which will come into force on 1 January, had been pending as a consequence of the referendum result.

After Thursday's meeting, the commission welcomed "progress in relations between the European Union and Switzerland”, but said it was still waiting to see how the new law will be implemented.

"The implementing order will have to provide certain clarifications and guarantees on key points," it said in a statement.

"Questions about access to information about job vacancies and full respect for the rights of frontier workers are particularly important,” it added.

The EU executive re-established Switzerland's participation in Horizon 2020 from 1 January and said negotiations on its participation in the Erasmus+ would also resume.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in the written statement that "2017 could be a milestone in the development of closer relations between the European Union and Switzerland, with a view to enhancing still further the vitality of our area of freedom - of all forms of freedom - to the benefit of all our citizens."

'All forms of freedom'

Juncker's mention of "all forms of freedom" is a reminder that for the commission, the Swiss negotiations could have created a negative precedent for Brexit talks, in which the UK is also likely to seek EU migrant curbs..

One of Juncker's spokeswomen said earlier this week that the commission made a “tireless effort to find a compromise" and suggested that the Swiss government had little choice but to agree to the EU demands.

"The commission not only accompanied the process, but it also steered it a little to ensure it went in the right direction," said Mina Andreeva.

The Swiss government now has to find a way to square the newly adopted law with the constitution as modified by voters.

One of the solutions it presented on Wednesday would be that the constitutional amendment does not apply to "wide-ranging international agreements”, such as the EU-Switzerland agreements and the European convention on human rights.

EU eyes 'specific' Swiss deal on migrants

The European Commission is “OK” to make a “Swiss-specific” pact on immigration, even if it has an impact on upcoming talks with the UK.

Switzerland threatens EU immigration quota

The Swiss government announced it would limit immigration from EU countries with a unilateral quota by March 2016 if it is unable to strike a deal with the EU.

EU warns Switzerland after anti-migrant vote

Swiss voters have backed a call to cap migration from EU countries - a move which could trigger the exclusion of the Alpine country from the EU internal market.

EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

EU leaders at a Brussels summit demand social networks and digital platforms guarantee transparency and privacy. Their call comes amid growing backlash against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica over voter manipulation.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Nordic states discuss targeted Russia sanctions
  2. Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case
  3. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  4. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  5. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  6. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  7. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  8. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica