EU rejects Swiss bid to rejig free movement deal

AFP - [email protected]
EU rejects Swiss bid to rejig free movement deal
EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

The European Union on Thursday formally rejected Switzerland's request to renegotiate their freedom of movement accord so as to take into account a Swiss vote earlier this year to limit immigration, EU sources said.


The decision was taken at a meeting of the 28 member state ambassadors to the EU, the sources said.
Switzerland is not an EU member but has extensive ties with the bloc covered by a whole series of agreements, one of which allows EU citizens free access to the country to work.
However, a narrow Swiss referendum victory in February in favour of immigration curbs put the whole relationship at risk as Brussels insisted it could not accept any compromise on its core principle that European citizens have the right of free movement.
In an effort to get around the problem, the Swiss government last month announced plans for new immigration quotas rather than an overall single reduction target, hoping thereby to have greater leeway in its treatment of EU citizens.
Brussels made clear in response that while it would look at the proposals, it was most unlikely to accept quotas or preferential treatment for some countries over others.
When the EU-Switzerland free movement accord came into effect in 2002, it was anticipated that some 8,000 EU citizens would take advantage of it each year but in practice it has been ten times as many.
The Swiss government has three years to implement the measures necessary to put the referendum result into effect.


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