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Vote set for bid ‘against mass immigration'

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Swiss People Party poster for its initiative
10:28 CEST+02:00
Swiss voters will decide early next year on a proposal by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) to reintroduce quotas for the number of foreigners allowed to work in Switzerland.

Authorities in Bern on Wednesday set a date of February 9th for a vote on the initiative “against mass immigration” for which the SVP gathered the necessary signatures.

The proposal, opposed by the government and the upper and lower houses of parliament, is contrary to the free movement of workers agreement that Switzerland has signed with the European Union.

But the SVP argues it will be possible to renegotiate the accord, although other parties say this is an illusion and that such a move would put at risk all bilateral agreements with the EU.

In fact, the federal government has invoked a clause that allows it to impose quotas on workers from the EU-8 countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary).

There are also severe restrictions preventing citizens from Bulgaria and Romania from working in Switzerland that remain in force until the end of May 2016.

The SVP agrees that Switzerland needs immigrant workers but it argues that its should be up to the Swiss to decide "who, and for how long, can come into our country".

The initiative is the first of a series dealing with immigration.

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Other votes will be held on a proposal to limit foreigners based on the environmental capacity of the country to accommodate more people, and on the expansion of the freedom of workers accord with the EU to include Croatia.

Also set for February 9th are votes on assuring financing for the maintenance of railway infrastructure and on a proposal, backed by anti-abortion groups, to remove abortions from universal medical insurance coverage.

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