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EU calls on Swiss to lift immigration quotas

Lyssandra Sears · 28 Jun 2012, 09:43

Published: 28 Jun 2012 10:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Jun 2012 09:43 GMT+02:00

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The EU has demanded that Switzerland lift restrictions on immigration from eight Central and Eastern European countries.

A Swiss delegation met in Brussels on Wednesday to talk for the first time about the application of the so-called safeguard clause in its bilateral treaty with the European Union, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

The EU demanded that the clause, which came into effect on May 1st 2012, be lifted immediately in order to ensure Switzerland respected the free movement of people from EU countries, Mario Gattiker, director of the Federal Office for Migration told the newspaper.

Gattiker said Switzerland intended to stick to its decision.

The activation of the clause is considered by Brussels to be discriminatory, and in contravention of the tenet that all member states should be treated equally.

Switzerland has been considering activating the clause, which is contained in its bilateral treaty with the EU, for some time.

The country already met the one specific condition needed to trigger the clause last summer. This condition 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.

This level was reached last year mainly due to the high number of immigrants arriving from Eastern European countries, finance minister Johann Schneider-Ammann told the foreign affairs policy commission in January. 

Nevertheless, the EU claims that this is not a justifiable reason to restrict movement.

“We made it clear that we see the safeguard clause as being in accordance with the Free Movement of People,” Gattiker said.

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Fears are growing in Switzerland that the EU will retaliate against the Swiss decision. This is a particular cause for concern given the various issues currently on the table for negotiation between the two.

EU Foreign Commissioner, Catherine Ashton, is also worried that these differences of opinion have highlighted the absence of a satisfactory dispute resolution system between the EU and Switzerland. The only thing that the member states can do is to put forward their objections in a year’s time, the newspaper reported.

This is unsatisfactory for many, who in future would like to see some kind of mediation facility between the parties in the event of such disputes.

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

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Your comments about this article

2012-06-29 10:28:18 by HoppSuisse
The bad news is that we just had a referendum vote to see if the people wanted to continue to let the politicians decide international treaties or if the people should vote directly on each treaty. Unfortunately (IMO) only 25% wanted to decide treaty through the referendum vote.

In the past it has happened that the Politian's signed agreements that were unpopular with the people. This will continue, apparently, because the people have become complacent.

It is our own fault. And I fear that one of the worlds last pillars of freedom is damaged.

2012-06-28 21:49:44 by bramblebush
If I were switzerland, I'd tell the EU to go pack sand. Only the Swiss need to decide how many immigrants it needs to let in.
2012-06-28 19:50:14 by bill
I perfectly understand this position, coming from the Swiss. The EU bullies the Swiss to try to adopt the EU failed policies and since the agreement of free movement, of many EU citizens, across Swiss borders, crime has sky rocketed and around Lake Geneva crime is terrible,thanks to the EU. Of course the EU wants their bad guys to come to Switzerland...then they do not have to deal with it. I commend Bern for standing up to unreasonable demands from the EU and not buckling to demands that border on blackmail... There is a better than even chance that the EU will no longer exist in the near future so it is best to stonewall the EU as they are self destructing anyway. I am not Swiss but am outraged how the EU bullies the Swiss.
2012-06-28 10:53:34 by smeghead
What has it got to do with the EU?
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