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Bankers worried about immigration accord
Swiss Bankers Association President Patrick Odier. Photo: Swiss Bankers Association

Bankers worried about immigration accord

Malcolm Curtis · 20 Oct 2015, 20:09

Published: 20 Oct 2015 20:09 GMT+02:00

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“The Swiss people decided in February 2014 for more restrained immigration,” Patrick Odier, president of the Swiss Bankers Association, said in an interview with daily newspaper Nordwestschweiz published on Tuesday.

“But for the banks, as for other branches of the domestic economy, it is important that we have access to the best qualified personnel as well as to foreign markets,” Odier said.

That is necessary for Swiss banks to be able to pursue their growth in Switzerland, maintain jobs abroad and contribute to Switzerland’s well-being, he said.

The SVP won the most seats in parliamentary elections on Sunday, electing 64 MPs to the 200-seat lower house of representatives in an election where immigration polled as the number one concern.

The populist party spearheaded the initiative approved by voters last year to limit immigration, although this flew in the face of the freedom of movement accord Bern has signed with the European Union.

The nationalist party has argued that it will be possible to renegotiate this agreement with Brussels but critics maintain that will put other bilateral agreements in jeopardy, including those that give Swiss businesses unfettered access to the EU market.

So far, the Swiss economy has maintained its strength in the face of such concerns and despite the relative strength of the franc against the euro.

The Swiss currency held firm following Sunday’s elections, suggesting that investors are not — in the short term — worried about the rise of the SVP.

But the banking industry remains concerned.

“We need a framework agreement with the the EU and exploratory discussions for a separate accord for financial services,” said Odier, a managing partner with Lombard Odier, the Geneva-based private bank.

However, without a solution to the SVP’s immigration initiative the EU will not discuss these issues, he said.

“It’s why we are asking the federal government to not wait any longer and to present proposals for the introduction of the initiative against mass immigration if still possible next January.”

Story continues below…

The comments came as members of the Swiss parliament prepare to vote for a new seven-person government in several weeks.

The SVP, which currently has only one representative in the cabinet, is campaigning for two seats but other parties are demanding members who promise to be “collegial” rather than combative.

A difference of opinion on how to implement the immigration initiative is one of the wedge issues separating the SVP from the centre-right Liberals, who currently have two cabinet ministers in the government.

Other parties, such as the Socialists and the Christian Democrats, are steadfastly opposed to the SVP approach. 

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Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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