New vote is needed on immigrants: finance boss

New vote is needed on immigrants: finance boss
Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. Photo: Remy Steinegger/World Economic Forum
A new referendum on Swiss relations with the European Union is inevitable and should be held in a few months, Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf says.

The vote is needed to clarify the situation in the wake of last year’s decision by voters in Switzerland to cap immigration from the EU, Widmer-Schlumpf said during a visit to Singapore, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The immigration initiative is incompatible with the free movement of persons agreement and other bilateral deals Switzerland has with the EU, the cabinet minister said.

So it would be useful to clarify this situation through another vote, Widmer-Schlumpf said, although she stressed that this was her personal opinion and not the view of the federal cabinet.

 She made the comments during a presentation to a meeting of the Swiss Business Association attended by about 100 people in which she also spoke of bilateral relation between Switzerland and Singapore.

Widmer-Schlumpf’s views emerged a day after Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga held fruitless talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The EU has made clear that if Switzerland proceeds with the immigration cap that other bilateral deals with the Switzerland would be nullified and that the Swiss cannot “cherrypick” agreements with the euro group of nations.

The Swiss federal cabinet as a group has not publicly raised the possibility of another referendum on immigration.

But last summer Foreign Minister (and then president) Didier Burkhalter alluded to such an eventuality when he told NZZ am Sonntag that “personally, I am assuming that we will always vote in two years on our bilateral relationship with the EU”.

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