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Blocher threatens new immigration initiative

Published: 17 Mar 2014 10:21 GMT+01:00

In the wake of the February 9th referendum in favour of limiting immigrants from the European Union, Blocher told several Swiss newspapers he was prepared to take the measure because he had no confidence that the federal government would apply the quotas rigourously.

Against the opposition of the government and all other major parties, the right-wing SVP launched the initiative to slap limits on citizens from the European Union working in Switzerland.

The government is currently negotiating with the EU on how to implement the quotas, although the initiative did not specify how these would be established or at what level.

Blocher, concerned that the government will interpret the initiative as loosely as possible, said he wants citizens to vote on a new initiative that would enshrine immigration quotas in the Swiss constitution.

“Switzerland applied quotas from 1970 to 2002,” the former cabinet minister and current SVP vice-president is quoted as saying by the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper.

“The model functioned well,” he said.

“Immigration was reduced despite the growth in the economy — and wages rose.”

Blocher told the Zentralschweiz am Sonntag paper that Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, responsible for immigration, “does not want to negotiate with the party (the SVP) that represents the views of the majority of citizens”.

Instead, she is discussing options with other parties who share her opinion, he said.

The SonntagsZeitung said that Blocher’s threat to launch a new initiative is aimed at keeping the pressure on other parties to ensure quotas will be applied.

Such quotas would end the freedom of movement of workers agreement that Switzerland agreed to with the EU and which was first introduced in 2007.

The EU said scrapping that agreement puts at risk a host of other bilateral deals that it has with the Swiss.

The federal government has three years to negotiate a new agreement with the 28-country bloc.

Foreigners currently account for almost a quarter of Switzerland's population of 8.1 million.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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