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EU-Switzerland Vast majority of Swiss prefer bilateral path with EU

Swiss cabinet ministers Pascal Couchepin (middle) and Joseph Deiss (left) and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (right) sign Swiss-EU bilaterals in 1999


Two-thirds of Swiss citizens surveyed support the bilateral treaties concluded with the European Union to strict curbs on immigration via quotas, as proposed in the ‘mass immigration’ initiative that voters narrowly backed in 2014.

A survey by the University of Geneva published on Tuesday found that 66% of German-speaking citizens, 69% of French-speaking citizens and 57% of Italian-speaking citizens give priority to the bilateral accords with the EU.

Support for the bilaterals is highest among the centre-left Social Democrats (+90%), followed by the centre-right Radicals and Christian Democrats (80%). However, supporters of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, Switzerland’s most popular political group, would rather see their initiative on mass immigration implemented (80%).

The survey, known as Vox, was carried out following Swiss voters’ rejection on February 28, 2016 of a hardline initiative to expel criminal foreigners. The organisers of the questionnaire believe the Swiss population will have to vote again soon on the issue of immigration and the bilateral accords with the EU.

These issues frequently appear at the ballot box in Switzerland. On February 9, 2014, voters in Switzerland narrowly approved a right-wing proposal to curb immigration (50.3% in favour). It imposes limits on the number of foreigners allowed in through the reintroduction of quotas, as well as a national preference when filling job vacancies and restrictions of immigrants’ rights to social benefits.

The small alpine nation in the centre of Europe is currently two-thirds of the way through a three-year timetable to enforce the binding 2014 referendum vote in favour of immigration quotas, which would violate a bilateral pact guaranteeing freedom of movement for EU workers.

The government has presented a blueprint to go it alone on immigration controls in line with the referendum, but stresses that a mutual agreement with the EU is by far the preferred option.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but it has concluded 20 major bilateral agreements with the 28-nation bloc, which include the free movement of persons accord, and another 100 secondary accords.

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