EU-Swiss Reconciliation: Immigration Law Issue Swept Under the Rug

Written by | Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

The European Commission last week embraced the progress in the EU-Swiss ties following the vote in the ‘Alpine Republic’ on the immigration law that does not impose outright quota. The new law aims to tame immigration by giving the Swiss nationals first crack at job opportunities, but does not introduce quotas, although Swiss voters had demanded them in a 2014 referendum. Thus, according to the new law, employers in sectors or regions with above-average joblessness must inform local job centers of vacancies at times of economic slowdown.

The assumption is that the Swiss will be more likely to register with the centers – even though cross-border citizens from EU or EFTA countries will be allowed to do so, allowing the Swiss government to argue that it meets the EU’s non-discrimination test. This move was welcome by the EU, which refuses to compromise on the free movement of people – one of the main pillars of the bloc. Moreover, the free movement of people is also a condition underpinning Swiss access to the EU’s single market of about half a billion people.

Last week, the EU-Switzerland Joint Committee issued a statement that the new balance achieved in the Swiss law “should make it possible to preserve the integrity of the contractual commitments between the European Union and Switzerland”. However, the EU Commission added that more clarity and guarantees on access to information about job vacancies and the rights of cross-border commuters would be desirable. “The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of this solution. 2017 could be a milestone in the development of closer relations between the European Union and Switzerland, with a view to enhancing still further the vitality of our area of freedom – of all forms of freedom – to the benefit of all our citizens,” President Jean-Claude Juncker stated.

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