Sunday

14th Apr 2024

EU countries back 'new' members on Swiss immigration

  • Swiss poster: 'Enough already! Stop mass immigration' (Photo: svp.ch)

EU countries have put up a united front against Swiss quotas on immigration from former Communist member states.

Foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday (18 April) in a statement on behalf of the Union said the quotas are "in breach" of a bilateral treaty on free movement of people, which "does not allow for any differentiation between EU citizens."

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Her spokeswoman, Maja Kocjinacic, herself from Slovenia, told the Polish Press Agency, that the legal text contains an exemption for Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, but not for the eight member states covered by the Swiss decision - Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The German President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, added that he "regrets the decision" to "discriminate" against the group.

Switzerland earlier the same day said it will let in just 2,000 people from the countries in question from 1 May this year until 1 May 2013 under a "safeguard guard" clause in the treaty.

It noted that EU citizens "make a crucial contribution to the Swiss economy," but the "complexity of the immigration theme" in terms of the job market and integration warrants the move.

It added that 6,000 people got residency permits since it relaxed rules last May and that there are already 1.1 million EU citizens in the small country.

Adding spice, the openly eurosceptic and anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party - the largest political faction in the country - has recently campaigned for a referendum on EU immigration using posters which show black workers' boots trampling the Swiss flag.

The group-of-eight has since joining the Union faced legal labour curbs in several EU member states, including Austria and Germany.

The eight capitals have also complained that 'old' member states such as France and Germany make decisions over their heads and that EU institutions - including Ashton's European External Action Service - discriminate against their applicants for senior posts.

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