Blocher backs tax on firms hiring foreigners

Blocher backs tax on firms hiring foreigners
Christoph Blocher: interested in tax levy proposal. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/File
Swiss People’s Party (SVP) politician Christoph Blocher has embraced a proposal to scrap planned immigration quotas and replace them with a tax on companies in Switzerland that employ foreigners.

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper published on Sunday, the right-winger said he was willing to consider the idea to replace the quotas that his party promoted in a national referendum accepted by a majority of Swiss citizens on February 9th.

The SVP vice-president said it was “worth considering” the proposal, initially developed by Reiner Eichenberger, an economist and professor at the University of Fribourg.

Blocher said such a levy on companies that hire foreigners has the potential to reduce the number of immigrants to Switzerland.

Supporters of the quotas have argued that too many foreigners moving to Switzerland are putting too much pressure on the country’s infrastructure, services and available housing, while reducing job opportunities for Swiss citizens.

Around 23 percent of the population of 8.14 million is non-Swiss.

However, quotas, opposed by the federal government, fly in the face of the free movement of persons accord that Switzerland agreed to with the European Union and they risk jeopardizing other bilateral agreements that the Swiss have with the EU.

The initiative backed by voters gave Bern three years to negotiate a new immigration agreement with Brussels.

The employer tax proposal, supported by the economic think tank Avenir Suisse, is gaining the interest of other centre-right parties.

With the backing of Blocher, it could gain majority support, SonntagsZeitung said.

The newspaper said the compromise proposal could be one way of putting in place an “anti-immigration” policy while safeguarding bilateral agreements with the EU.

It is not clear how Brussels would view such a tax on immigrants. 

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