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Swiss-EU ties Bilateral agreements crucial, says Nestlé CEO

Paul Bulcke has been Nestlé's CEO since 2008

(Keystone)

The CEO of Switzerland-based Nestlé has defended the country’s bilateral accords with Europe, arguing that they “create a stable environment” for companies like his to operate and that the future of Nestlé’s workforce depends on them.

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, Paul Bulcke, a 61-year-old Belgian who has led Nestlé since 2008, said that “we have researchers from all over the world, and we don’t want to lose them. If it becomes difficult to bring such specialists to Switzerland, we’ll go where that possibility still exists, which is logical".

In February 2014, Swiss voters narrowly chose to place quotas on immigrants from the European Union, placing into question the free movement of people accords between Switzerland and the EU, as well as other bilateral agreements. Last week, cabinet announced that if it’s unable to reach an agreement with the EU, a unilateral safeguard clause will come into effect, limiting the number of immigrants past a certain threshold. 

When asked whether he could understand Swiss voters’ concerns about there being too many foreigners in the country, Bulcke asked, “What is too many? When you see how successful Switzerland is, how low the unemployment rate is and how well-integrated the working foreigners are here, it is too many?” 

Bulcke also said he has been troubled by the evolution he’s seen in Switzerland in recent years, with initiatives such as the one in February 2014 and the so-called “fat cat” initiative limiting executive pay placing the country’s legal security for companies at risk. 

“Of course, Switzerland can regulate how it wants,” he said of the country’s limits on executive pay. “But that has consequences. I need, for example, people who move about in an international environment and are able to take responsibility for 25 billion francs in turnover.” 

And when it comes to his company’s shareholders, Bulcke said that “many don’t understand what the goal of all these [regulation] efforts is. Strategy is key for businesses, not just administration. And people are asking why Switzerland is hurting itself. Is this still a place that invites businesses to stay?”

Nestlé, based in Vevey where it was also founded in 1905, is the world’s largest food company in terms of revenue. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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