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Merkel to talk up free movement in Swiss visit

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Merkel to talk up free movement in Swiss visit
Photo: John Macdougall/AFP
11:21 CEST+02:00
German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to reiterate Europe's commitment to the free movement of people during an official visit to Switzerland on Thursday, only her second in ten years.

The most powerful woman in the world will meet with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and three of her ministers in Bern where they will discuss the state of Swiss-EU relations 18 months after Switzerland voted in favour of limiting immigration, according to newspaper Le Temps.

The Swiss government is still grappling with how to deal with the repercussions of the February 9th 2014 referendum in which the Swiss people narrowly passed a proposal to introduce immigration quotas. 

The vote contradicts Switzerland's participation in the Schengen agreement on the free movement of people, a fundamental EU principle, and places the future of many EU-Swiss bilateral agreements in question.

While Merkel is not expected to change her position on the issue, this rare official visit will be welcomed by the Swiss federal government as part of its diplomatic efforts to incur “a little understanding” from its influential neighbours in the hope of opening negotiations with the European Commission, said Le Temps.

Other topics on the agenda will be the worsening migrant crisis across Europe, the war in Ukraine and Swiss-German bilateral agreements in the fields of energy and transport.

Merkel and Sommaruga are expected to see eye to eye on the question of asylum and the current migrant crisis.

Both are pushing for a wide reform of the Schengen agreement and want European countries to commit to taking their share of refugees, said Le Temps.

Back in May Sommaruga said Switzerland would be willing to adopt an EU migration proposal for the even geographical distribution of asylum seekers across Europe.

In August she faced pressure from Lucerne cantonal authorities over what it saw as Switzerland's “overly generous” asylum policy and the subsequent influx of Eritrean refugees to the region.

But the Swiss President said it was “unthinkable” that Switzerland should send Eritreans back to their authoritarian home country.

Merkel, who last visited Switzerland in 2008, will also speak at the university of Bern where she will finally receive the  honorary doctorate she was awarded by the university in 2009.

Government spokesman André Simonazzi tweeted Merkel's arrival at the airport.

 

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