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Bern and Brussels

EU leader says Swiss immigration solution is crucial

The head of the European Union Parliament says the EU needs to reach an agreement with Switzerland over the free movement of people and do so “relatively quickly”, independent from the negotiations over Brexit. 

Martin Schulz told Swiss Public Television SRF on Wednesday that Switzerland and the EU must reach an agreement because they are dependent on each other – even if “Switzerland (needs) the EU a bit more than the other way round”. 

The EU parliamentary president admitted that Swiss voters’ February 2014 decision to limit immigration from the European Union is, at first glance, incompatible with the EU’s treaties. But he said the parties should “at least think about” trying to achieve a transitional solution with a long-term target of bringing Swiss law in harmony with European Union treaties. 

Schulz said the idea of a so-called “safeguard clause”, which has been thrown around among members of the Swiss government and parliament as a possible solution, seems promising at first glance. Such a clause would introduce quotas after a certain immigration threshold is achieved in specific regions and industries.

“But we need a global solution,” he cautioned. “A solution for free movement in the entire EU and not just in border regions.” 

“We will have to think about it more.” 

Switzerland has a deadline of February 2017 to implement the 2014 referendum on EU immigration, although President Johann Schneider-Ammann has said the government could seek legislation to allow that deadline to be extended if no agreement with Brussels has been reached by then.

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