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Voter support for new immigration curbs slides

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Voter support for new immigration curbs slides
Ecopop poster (detail)
22:23 CET+01:00
Swiss voters are ready to reject a proposal to restrain population growth by severely limiting immigration, according to the results of surveys released on Wednesday.

The so-called Ecopop proposal, to be decided in a national vote on November 30th, was opposed by 56 percent of citizens surveyed by the gfs.bern opinion poll institute for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

The results mark a drop in support for the initiative, launched by an association for ecology and population, that calls for net annual immigration to be capped at 0.2 percent of the population.

The aim of the initiative is to keep a lid on urban sprawl and to promote “sustainable preservation of natural resources” by restricting the number of people allowed to move to the country.

The federal government and parliament have campaigned against the proposal saying that it would fail to resolve environmental problems and would be harmful to the economy.

The proposed immigration formula would translate into a net immigration ceiling of 17,000 people a year, compared to the recent average of around 80,000.

Simonetta Sommaruga, federal justice and police minister, has said the initiative would have an adverse impact on Swiss companies that need the flexibility to be able to recruit from abroad when skilled personnel are unavailable in the indigenous workforce.

Another poll conducted for 20 Minutes newspaper found 58 percent of respondents opposing Ecopop, compared to 53 percent at the end of October.

Political scientist Thomas Milic, from the University of Zurich, told 20 Minutes the weakening of support for the proposal can be explained by the campaign by opponents, which has intensified in recent weeks.

The proposal comes after Swiss voters in February backed an initiative for unspecified immigration quotas over concerns about too many people moving to Switzerland from the European Union.

The government has not yet implemented the initiative for immigration quotas and has more than two years to develop a plan for this.

Polls show that voters are also likely to turn down a bid to scrap tax deals for wealthy immigrants across the country.

Around 5,600 individuals (based on 2012 figures) benefit from such deals, which involve imposing taxes not on revenue or assets but on cost of living expenditures, including housing, transport and employees.

Five cantons, including Zurich, have done away with the tax deals, while another five cantons have toughened the regulations.

Surveys also show lack of support for the other initiative to be voted on at month’s end to force the Swiss National Bank to almost triple its gold reserves while preventing it from selling off any bullion.

Central bank chief Thomas Jordan said on the weekend such a move would be “fatal” for the SNB, limiting its ability to act to control prices and support the economy.  

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