Swiss make ‘compromise deal’ with Croatia

Switzerland has reached a compromise agreement with Croatia on the free movement of people, Swiss state radio broadcaster RTS says.

Swiss make 'compromise deal' with Croatia
Photo: OFCL

The deal would end an impasse between the two countries after the February 9th vote by Swiss citizens to subject immigration from citizens of the European Union to quotas, a report aired by RTS on Tuesday said.

Following the vote, the federal government refused to sign an agreement previously hashed out in principle with Croatia that would have given Croatians access to the Swiss employment market following a ten-year transitional regime.

Croatia became the 28th member state of the EU in July 2013.

Bern said the referendum result prevented it by law from signing the previously agreed protocol because it was incompatible with the introduction of quotas for immigrants.

The new agreement would be delivered through a federal government order that will give the right for Croatians to work in Switzerland, although there will be progressive quotas, the RTS report said.

This would be accompanied by a declaration of “non-discrimination” against Croatians, the report said.

However, the “transitional” agreement is subject to approval by the European Commission and the signals coming from Brussels are “rather negative”, RTS said.

The Swiss government is working separately to renegotiate the freedom of movement of labour agreement it signed with the EU to meet the requirements of the February 9th referendum, which call for immigrant quotas.

The vote put the requirement for such quotas in the Swiss constitution but it did not specify quota limits or who will determine the quotas.

The federal government has asked officials from the justice, foreign affairs and economic affairs department to develop an implementation plan by the end of June.

The plan will serve as the basis for later negotiations with the EU, although exploratory discussions with Brussels have already begun.

After Switzerland earlier announced it could not sign the freedom of movement agreement with Croatia, the EU responded by freezing grants to Switzerland for the Erasmus educational exchange programme and for research projects.

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Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Swiss voters on Sunday backed making streaming services pay to boost Swiss film-making, and funding the expansion of Europe's Frontex border agency, thereby avoiding another row with Brussels, according to projected results.

Swiss back 'Netflix' law and steer clear of 'Frontexit'

Market researchers GFS Bern, who conducted the main polling throughout the campaign, projected that 58 percent of voters backed the so-called “Lex Netflix”.

They said 72 percent backed Switzerland joining the planned ramping up of Frontex, providing more money and staff to protect the continent’s Schengen open-borders zone.

And 59 percent approved a law change that would automatically register individuals as organ donors after death, unless they opt out.

Under the wealthy Alpine nation’s direct democracy system, voters are called to the polls four times a year to decide on specific topics, according to popular demand.

The polls closed at midday (1000 GMT), with most ballots having already been sent in by post over the past four weeks.

The results are due later Sunday, with each of the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons reporting their results in turn.

Lex Netflix
The “Lex Netflix” vote approves an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

Since 2007, domestic television broadcasters have been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

The amendment was brought forward to reflect the dramatic shift in how audio-visual content is now consumed, with global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue now making hundreds of millions of dollars in
Switzerland each year.

Streaming services will now have to submit to the four-percent rule.

Swiss cinema production pulls in around 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) a year, according to the culture ministry — but could now be in line for an additional 18 million francs.

The platforms will also be required to ensure that European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as in the neighbouring European Union.

Right-leaning opponents had collected enough signatures to take the change to a referendum.

Transplant laws
The vote on changing the organ donation laws will see everyone become a potential donor after death unless they have expressly opted out.

Up to now, transplants were only possible if the donor clearly consented before they died.

The government and parliament wanted to change the law to a “presumed consent” model — as used in a number of other European countries.

Relatives will still have the right of refusal if they suspected that the deceased would not have wanted to be an organ donor.

A group of opponents, backed by the populist and religious right, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 patients were awaiting transplant organs in Switzerland, a country of around 8.6 million people. 

But 72 people died last year while on the waiting list, according to the Swisstransplant organisation.

Frontexit averted
Ties between Brussels and Bern have been strained since May 2021 when non-EU Switzerland suddenly decided to end years of discussion towards a broad cooperation agreement with the bloc.

The clear support for Frontex has avoided aggravating the stand-off.

Under Europe’s expansion plan, Frontex will have a permanent contingent of 10,000 border guards and coast guards.

Switzerland will nearly triple its financial contribution to Frontex to 61 million Swiss francs ($61 million, 58 million euros) annually, and increase its personnel contribution from six people to around 40.

Migrant support organisations, backed by left-leaning political parties, collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

The government warned voters that if they rejected the expansion, Switzerland risked automatic exclusion from the Schengen area.