Far right forces referendum on EU accord
Supporters of the far right have presented the Swiss government with a petition to try to stop the Swiss labour market being opened up to new members of the European Union.
Some 80,000 signatures were handed over to the federal authorities in Bern at a ceremony on Tuesday. The Swiss look set to vote on the issue in a referendum on September 25.
Voters will be asked to extend an accord on the free movement of people between EU countries and Switzerland to the new member states. The agreement was part of a first set of bilateral accords signed between Brussels and Bern.
Since June 2004, this freedom allows people from the 15 "old" members of the EU to work in Switzerland without a permit.
According to a spokesman for the far-right Swiss Democrats, Rudolf Keller, it was easy to collect the signatures and 100,000 or more could have been obtained without any problem.
Member of parliament Bernhard Hess said that many signatures had been collected from the French- and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland.
Hess believes that the issue stands a good chance of being accepted. "We can win in all parts of the country," he commented.
The Swiss Democrats have been campaigning against the extension of the free movement of people, warning of mass immigration and the loss of jobs in Switzerland.
The referendum committee also included representatives from the Lega dei Ticinese and the Freedom Party, as well as several members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.
Another committee, from the far left, also supported the referendum.
On Thursday, opponents of the Schengen/Dublin accords with the EU on crime and asylum - led by the Swiss People’s Party - are due to hand in signatures calling for another referendum.
The government has set aside June 5 for a vote on that issue.
swissinfo with agencies
Ten additional countries became members of the EU on May 2004.
They are Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus.
The freedom of movement of people between EU countries and Switzerland is part of the first bilateral accords between Brussels and Bern.
Since June 2004, it allows people from the 15 "old" EU countries to work in Switzerland without a permit.
This should be extended to the new EU countries at the latest by 2011.
Led by the Swiss Democrats, an all-party committee collected signatures for a referendum on the issue.
The vote looks set to be held on September 25.
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