Switzerland said last week that it would introduce unilateral curbs on immigration if it did not manage to agree with the European Union on limiting the influx of migrants into the country. Following months of tough talks, the EU and Switzerland are still unsure over how to implement last year’s Swiss referendum for immigration quotas that would breach a bilateral pact ensuring freedom of movement for EU workers.
The EU-Swiss agreement has been generally deadlocked by the United Kingdom, which is by and large demanding the very same thing as Switzerland – to limit migration from within the block – making it difficult for Brussels to settle matters with Bern before it has fixed its relations with London. There is now only a year left before the quotas must come into effect but Swiss authorities have now taken the sharpest move yet in the talks with the EU. “If there is really no solution … we would be ready for a suspension of a part or all of the bilateral agreements,” Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter commented.
The government has asked its Justice Department to prepare legislation for unilateral curbs on immigration by March 2016 in case there is no breakthrough. Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, however, ensures that it was not what the government wished for, saying that her cabinet would continue EU talks with the aim to eventually find an agreement. A European Commission spokeswoman said that the talks were indeed “difficult” but Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would meet Ms Sommaruga again before the end of this year. The outcome of the referendum in February 2014 jeopardized a number of Swiss-EU treaties that govern bilateral economic relations between both sides. Some analysts predict that Switzerland could see its output cut by as much as 7 percent of its gross domestic product by 2035.