A Swiss group seeking to reverse a decision to introduce immigration quotas on European Union nationals have handed in signatures to force a national vote.
Members of the group “Raus aus der Sackgasse!” (RASA) – German for “out of a dead end”, on Tuesday handed in 110,000 signatures at the Federal Chancellery in Bern. One hundred thousand signatures are required to bring an initiative to a nationwide vote. The signatures gathered will now be counted and verified, and if the initiative is found to be valid, a vote date will be announced in future.
The group claims that the narrow support last year by Swiss voters for a conservative right Swiss People’s Party proposal to re-introduce quotas on EU nationals threatens bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU.
"People want to decide for themselves if the initiative against mass immigration should be implemented literally or if bilateral agreements with the European Union (EU) must have priority," the initiative committee stated.
The group now wants to revoke the re-introduction of immigration quotas, modifying the Swiss constitution, which now states that Switzerland may autonomously control immigration with quotas.
It hopes Swiss citizens can cast their vote on the proposal before February 9, 2017.
RASA is supported by about 300 people, including public figures from the fields of politics, industry, research and the arts.
They include former cabinet minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, former federal judge Giusep Nay, artist Pipilotti Rist and billionaire businessman Hansjörg Wyss, as well as historian Georg Kreis, medical researcher Brigitte von Rechenberg, democracy expert Andreas Auer and law professor Thomas Geiser.
On February 9, 2014, Swiss voters backed a plan supported by the conservative right People’s Party to place limits on foreigners living in the Alpine nation. Implementing the vote has become an immense headache for the Swiss authorities. Lawmakers have until 2017 to reconcile this referendum result with an EU pact that guarantees the free movement of workers, otherwise the Swiss government must write quotas into law regardless of any compromise with the EU.
swissinfo.ch and agencies