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EU states slam Swiss for immigrant worker caps

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EU states slam Swiss for immigrant worker caps
Helene C. Stikkel. Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski.
10:45 CEST+02:00

Many of the eight EU countries whose citizens have been singled out by Switzerland for immigration restrictions have reacted with fury to the move.

Polish foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, was reported in the Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, as saying that he was “deeply disappointed”.

The decision, he said, was “discriminatory and illegal”, since more than 90 percent of the EU nationals in Switzerland come from the "old" EU countries, rather than the eight new members from Central and Eastern Europe that have been singled out, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

Sikorski also asked the Polish people to think twice in future before planning their holidays in Switzerland after the country invoked a "safeguard clause" in its bilateral agreements with the EU. 

The move means Switzerland will reduce by two thirds the number of work permits it issues to citizens of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. 

A joint statement was released on Thursday by Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, calling for Switzerland to reverse its decision.

“If in the future an agreement with Switzerland is negotiated by Brussels, I do not know if we Slovaks will enthusiastically support it," Ján Foltín, the Slovakian ambassador to Switzerland, told NZZ.

Various EU politicians, including the EU president, German Social Democrat Martin Schulz, and a spokesman for the Liberals in Europe, as well as Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign representative, believe that the move infringes freedom of movement and breaches the bilateral treaties in place between Switzerland and the EU.

At home, farming sector representatives in particular were frustrated by the news that the number of immigrant workers from the eight countries is to be reduced from 6,000 to 2,000. It is feared that this sector will pay the price more than others for the reduction in numbers of low-skilled workers. 

Not all commentary has been negative, however. In the Czech Republic, the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes wrote that a small country like Switzerland would need to protect its own characteristics and identity, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

Another of the Czech papers responded with a “Bravo!” and commented that the “Swiss are not just talkers; their decisions make sense.”

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