In order to restrict the number of workers arriving from the original member states of the European Union, Switzerland would have to invoke the so-called ‘safeguard clause’ in the bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.
Speaking to the foreign affairs policy commission on Tuesday, Finance minister Johann Schneider-Ammann explained that current economic conditions meant Switzerland fulfilled the criteria needed to activate the safeguard clause,’Radio DRS said.
The clause, established in the bilateral agreement, allows Switzerland to reintroduce quotas unilaterally for a limited period of time.
The country has already met the one specific condition needed to trigger the clause. This stipulates that the number of work permits granted to workers from the EU in the last year must have exceeded by at least 10 percent the annual average for the three previous years.
That level was reached last year mainly due to the high number of immigrants arriving from Eastern European countries, Schneider-Amman said.
In fact, the condition was met as early as last summer, the government revealed in a parliamentary session last autumn.
The Federal Council will examine the situation in the following months before making a final decision in the spring, taking into account developments on the job market. If the government chooses to activate the clause, quotas could be put in place by May 1st.
The Swiss government has previously sought to avoid the reintroduction of quotas for EU citizens. Nationals from the first 17 states to join the 27-member EU have enjoyed total freedom of movement since June 2007.