Switzerland’s First Major Punishment for Its EU Immigration Vote

Written by | Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Brussels announced on Sunday (16 February) that it had put off talks with Berne on its engagement in a multibillion-dollar research and education agendas, after Switzerland said it could not agree to the current conditions of the free movement of labour for EU citizens. The ‘unfavourable’ result of the Swiss immigration polls was widely anticipated and subsequently confirmed in a referendum on February 9, in which 50.3 percent of voters opted for tighter rules on immigration quotas for EU citizens. As a result, Berne now has ten years as of 1 July 2014 to open its labour market for Croatian citizens and three years to enact the outcome of the referendum.
Switzerland has been criticized by the European Union for that narrow majority vote against free movement of labour – one of EU’s fundamental principles. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned the country that its decision would yield “serious consequences” for EU-Swiss mutual ties. As an immediate effect, the Commission said it was putting off negotiations on Swiss-EU educational and research projects under Brussels’ €80-billion Horizon 2020 agenda as well as €14.7-billion Erasmus exchange program between 2014 and 2020.
According to the Commission, Swiss decision to curb migration from the EU stands against the main principle of both programs, as these involve free movement of students and researchers including Croatia. The EU chooses to include some of non-EU countries to its Horizon 2020 and Erasmus program in order to guarantee funding of top research and science projects. For instance, the previous EU-Swiss agreement on research and development included a grant of €1.8-billion for Swiss scientists under which a number of projects in IT, health, and nano-sciences were funded. EU’s decision to tentatively restrain Swiss access to its R&D and educational programs is not the only measure Brussels has already taken in response to the Swiss referendum. A cross-border electricity deal between the two has also been already put on hold.

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