Croatia and immigration Swiss president refines key EU deadlines




Negotiations between Scheider-Ammann's government and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) over Swiss-EU accords have proven difficult

(Keystone)

A decision over whether to include Croatia in the free movement of people agreement will go forward without a verdict on Switzerland’s future with the European Union, says Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. He also foresees further delays in reaching a deal over EU immigration. 

“We can’t afford not to play in the Champions League any more and not be fully involved with [the Horizon 2020 research programme],” Schneider-Ammann told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in an interview, referring to Switzerland’s being shut out of European Union research funding if they don’t ratify Croatian citizens’ access to the free movement of people agreement. 

“Switzerland has to ratify the [Croatia] protocol before February 9, 2017,” the Swiss president said. “For me, it’s clear there’s no time to lose.” 

However, Schneider-Ammann does foresee delays in reaching an agreement with the EU over Switzerland’s February 2014 vote to limit immigration from the 28-nation bloc, also originally given a deadline of February 9, 2017. Although Switzerland is not an EU member, a series of bilateral accords that govern its relations with the European bloc could come under threat if an agreement on implementing the immigration accord is not reached. 

Schneider-Ammann said there are governmental procedures outlined in the Swiss constitution that allow for pushing back such a deadline even if it’s been voted in by referendum. 

“We probably won’t have any choice but to take this into consideration,” he said, adding that a detailed agreement is unlikely to be reached this summer. The EU and Switzerland had put their talks on ice until after Britain’s June 23 referendum over whether to stay in the Union. 

“It’s in the EU’s best interest to normalise its relations with Switzerland,” the Swiss president continued. “We made things hard on ourselves with the February 9, 2014 vote.” 

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