Wednesday

25th Jan 2017

Swiss hope to salvage EU agreements despite immigrant cap

The Swiss government will try to salvage its bilateral programmes with the EU, which are under threat after voters backed plans to cap EU migration, the country's economy minister has said.

"We have to reconcile the popular vote and the free movement of persons, also in order to save the bilateral agreements," Johann Schneider-Ammann told the SonntagsZeitung in an interview on Sunday (2 March).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Swiss voters backed strict curbs to EU immigration in a referendum in February (Photo: Lars Francke)

Swiss voters backed plans to reintroduce annual immigration quotas by a narrow majority in a referendum on 9 February, overturning at a stroke a 12-year-old agreement allowing Swiss and EU citizens to cross the border freely and to work on either side.

The initiative leaves the decision on the quota level in the hands of the Swiss government, which has three years to translate the vote into law, and which has promised to draft a bill to limit immigration by the end of the year.

Around 450,000 Swiss citizens exercise their right to live and work in the EU, while nearly 1.2 million EU citizens live in Switzerland.

However, the EU-Swiss pact on free movement sits alongside a series of bilateral agreements on goods and services which are now under threat.

Last week, the EU said it had suspended Switzerland's participation in its multi-billion-euro Horizon 2020 research programme and its Erasmus student exchange scheme. The bloc has also halted talks on integrating Switzerland's utility firms into the EU energy market.

Schneider-Ammann met with business leaders on Saturday, who urged him to keep restrictions on free movement to a bare minimum in a bid to minimise the effects on the country's economy.

Both the government and business groups had urged voters to reject the curbs to immigration put forward by the eurosceptic Swiss People's Party.

Economic analysts have forecast that any restrictions on Swiss firms' access to the EU's single market, particularly for its substantial banking and pharmaceutical industries, will limit the country's growth prospects.

In a nod to this, the minister added that "there is no sustainable growth without immigration."

News in Brief

  1. VW's internal Dieselgate probe not yet done
  2. Israel defies EU policy with huge settlement expansion
  3. Martin Schulz to be candidate for German chancellor
  4. EU commission gives MEPs Dieselgate paper at last moment
  5. EU parliament committee backs EU-Canada deal
  6. UK MPs must vote on Brexit trigger, court rules
  7. Greek island mayors plead for the transfer of migrants
  8. Tzipi Livni cancels Brussels trip amid war crimes probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsKyrgyzstan: no Justice for Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov
  2. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  3. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  4. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  5. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  7. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  8. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  10. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  11. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  12. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism

Latest News

  1. No Turkey-type migrant deal with Libya, says EU commission
  2. EU to Trump: Protectionism is 'doomed to fail'
  3. The French town that swung from socialist to far-right
  4. UK parliament must give Brexit approval, judges rule
  5. 'No indication' VW used EU loans to cheat
  6. Fillon promotes pro-Russia views in Berlin
  7. Dutch PM tells people to 'act normal, or go away'
  8. EU to step up effort against Russian and Islamist propaganda