Swiss-EU relations: free movement faces new challenge

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Swiss-EU relations: free movement faces new challenge
Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The Swiss public may get the chance to vote against the country’s adherence to the EU’s free movement principle as an anti-immigration body on Sunday announced it would launch a popular initiative on the subject later this year.


The members of the Association for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (AUNS) on Sunday voted unanimously to develop an initiative aimed at ending free movement between Switzerland and the Europe, reported news agencies on Monday. 
The exact detail of the proposal will be worked out by a committee which is currently discussing three variants. 
The most simple option is to simply end the bilateral agreement on free movement.
The second suggestion goes further, demanding that Switzerland sign no further agreements that allow free movement to an undefined number of foreigners. 
The aim of this extra clause would be to ensure that, following the end of the free movement agreement, it can’t be reintroduced in a different way, said the association. 
The committee’s third option is not to demand an end to the existing agreement specifically but to ban the principle of EU-Swiss free movement altogether, applicable to all existing and future agreements.
AUNS is backed by many in the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), including outspoken former Valais minister Oskar Freysinger, who was unceremoniously dumped from his seat in March in what an opponent hailed as “a defeat for populism and aggression”.
The organization first touted the idea of a popular initiative against free movement following the Swiss government’s decision last December not to fully implement the 2014 anti-immigration initiative that was approved by the public in a referendum. 
If adopted in its intended form the 2014 initiative would have contravened the country’s free movement agreement with the EU.
AUNS said at the time that the government’s momentous decision went against the decision of the people and that in response it would look to launch an initiative calling for the total abandonment of free movement.
If the public were to vote in favour of such an initiative, it would destroy a whole raft of bilaterals linked to the free movement principle, essentially excluding Switzerland from the single market.


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