RASA – an acronym of ‘Raus aus des Sackgasse', meaning ‘break the deadlock' – was officially presented to the Swiss government in October, having gathered the required number of signatures in just eight months.
Those behind it want to repeal the result of the February 2014 anti-immigration initiative, when the Swiss public voted in favour of placing limits on EU immigration.
The main aim is to preserve Switzerland's bilateral agreements with the EU, threatened by the idea of immigration controls since they would transgress the EU principle of free movement.
The government has rejected RASA, saying back in October that it would not be democratic to repeal the 2014 referendum result since that would “annul the mandate the people and the cantons gave to the government to limit immigration”.
In a statement on Wednesday the Federal Council said it would instead ask the public to vote on a counter-project to RASA, with two possible options in consultation.
The first proposes that any immigration controls should take into account international agreements between Switzerland and Europe.
The second option proposes to overturn the rule requiring the 2014 anti-immigration initiative to be implemented within three years.
This leaves open the possibility that the free movement agreement between Switzerland and the EU could be adapted at a later date to implement some form of immigration controls.
Last week the Swiss parliament showed just how important it thinks the EU bilaterals are by adopting a hugely watered down version of the 2014 initiative aimed at preserving its relationship with the bloc.
The solution angered many, including the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which had backed the 2014 initiative and felt the government's decision did not go nearly far enough.
In its statement the government said it recognized that parliament's current solution to the 2014 initiative “does not entirely implement the constitutional provisions regarding immigration”.
“The Federal Council feels that the decision of parliament to manage immigration from EU countries while taking into account the bilateral agreements should be written into the constitution.
“The population should be able to have their say on this question.”