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Bern reaches agreement with EU over Croatia

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Bern reaches agreement with EU over Croatia
EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP
22:12 CEST+02:00
Relations between Switzerland and the European Union appeared to brighten on Tuesday when Brussels accepted a proposal from the Swiss over free movement of people with Croatia.

Negotiators for the EU agreed to the proposal without signing an extra protocol, Swiss broadcaster RTS reported.

Brussels reached a compromise agreement a few weeks ago over free movement of workers between Switzerland and Croatia, which became the 28th member state of the EU on July 23rd 2013.

But on April 16th, in a surprise move UK representatives called for a “time out” on the talks in order to consult with the government in Westminster.

The UK is now apparently comfortable with the deal which would, according to earlier reports, allow for the free movement of workers between Switzerland and Croatia through a Swiss federal government order, with a phased-in approach involving quotas.

Bern has been seeking a solution with the EU after being unable to sign a free movement accord with the Croatians in the wake of the February 9th Swiss referendum in favour of immigration quotas.

The federal government said it was unable to sign the previously agreed-to protocol because it was incompatible with constitutional changes forced by the referendum result.

At the same time, Switzerland, which still has a movement of labour agreement in place with the EU’s other 27 members, emphasized that it did not want to discriminate against Croatia.

RTS said a resolution of the impasse with the EU over Croatia is tied to reopening of discussions with Brussels over Switzerland’s participation in the Erasmus student exchange and Horizon 2020 research programmes.

In response to the refusal of Bern to sign the freedom movement of labour deal with Croatia, Brussels froze Swiss involvement in the programs, affecting millions of euros in grants.

An EU committee is expected to deal with the issue on Wednesday morning, RTS said.

Meanwhile, Bern said it planned to develop a proposal by June on an implementation plan on immigration that it hopes will be acceptable to Brussels, which has threatened to nix other bilateral agreements with Switzerland over the free movement issue.     

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