EU Regrets Result of Swiss referendum on Immigration

Written by | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The European Union has deplored the outcome of the Swiss referendum that limits immigration as contrary to the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland.
Following the popular vote in Switzerland Sunday on the “mass immigration” initiative, the European Commission said in a statement that it regrets the initiative introducing “quantitative limits to immigration” and that “this goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland.”
The freedom of movement for EU citizens is a central pillar of the EU’s single market.
The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole, the statement said.
The Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU also deplored the results of the referendum pointing out that “the introduction of quotas on immigration from the EU citizens goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland as enshrined in the bilateral agreement in place, which is a key factor in the harmonious development of our relations.”
The free movement of persons is “a core principle” of the European project and a fundamental right of all its citizens that should be upheld and promoted, the EU presidency said, adding that the EU will have to examine the repercussions of the outcome of the vote.
The measure, voted by a narrow majority of 50.4% and hailed by far-right populists casts doubts over relations between the EU and Switzerland, which are bound by an agreement on free movement.
Although it is not an EU member, Switzerland is well integrated with the EU. It is respectful of the open borders system allowing EU citizens to travel freely across the EU member states and is part of the Schengen space guaranteeing free movement for Schengen visa holders.
The Swiss vote came as a surprise in a country where almost one in four inhabitants is immigrant and where unemployment is the lowest in Europe.
Although it is too early to assess accurately the consequences of the vote, imposing limits on immigration is already criticized by several Swiss sectors, such as the hotel industry or hospitals which hire many immigrant staff. The new provisions might result in recruitment difficulties for such trades and institutions and might entail additional administrative costs.

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