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Swiss parliament reaches agreement on EU immigration

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Swiss parliament reaches agreement on EU immigration
The Swiss parliament seems to have finally found an agreement. File photo: Peter Schneider/AFP
09:16 CET+01:00
After nearly three years, the Swiss parliament has finally decided how to deal with the February 2014 ‘against mass immigration’ referendum, even if its solution bears little resemblance to the text of the initiative voted for by the public back then.

Following years of speculation and uncertainty, and several weeks of intense debate, on Monday parliament hammered out the detail of its ‘light’ solution, agreeing rules that will see unemployed domestic workers given preference over EU nationals for jobs in Switzerland.

The agreement is still subject to a final vote on Friday, however that is simply a formality, reported news agencies.

Back in February 2014 the Swiss people narrowly voted in favour of bringing in some form of limits on immigration from EU countries, a move that would have countered the EU’s free movement principle and jeopardised Switzerland’s many other bilaterals with the bloc.

The new rules agreed on Monday diverge hugely from the constitutionally-binding referendum, after the Swiss parliament decided – to outcry from some – that it was not willing to sacrifice its relationship with the EU.

Rather than imposing strict limits on EU immigration, parliament has agreed new rules on unemployment which should limit the impact of foreign workers on the domestic job market.

Employers will be obliged to advertise vacant positions to job centres and invite selected Swiss job seekers for interview. If they don’t, they will risk a 40,000 franc fine.

This obligation will only apply in professions, job sectors or regions where unemployment is above average.

However employers will not – as was suggested by the Council of States during the development of this new law – be obliged to justify why they refuse a Swiss candidate.

If these measures do not work, affected regions may propose further measures to parliament.

Europeans who lose their job within the first year will have six months to leave Switzerland.

The new law is a hugely watered down version of the ‘against mass immigration’ initiative voted for back in 2014, and parliament’s actions have angered some, including the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which backed the 2014 initiative.

However, despite what some see as the Swiss parliament’s “capitulation” on the issue, there is still no guarantee that the EU Commission will accept this Swiss national preference in the job market.

Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann will likely meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the coming weeks.

What’s more, there is still a chance this could be thrown up in the air again due to the RASA – or ‘break the deadlock’ – initiative, which would effectively give Swiss voters the chance to vote again on the issue.

While the Swiss government does not want to repeal the result of the 2014 referendum, it is currently developing a counter-project to RASA which could see Swiss people voting to essentially preserve EU bilaterals at all costs.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s immigration dilemma: what you need to know

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