The government has put forward a formal proposal to begin negotiations with the European Union on adapting the free movement of people accord following February’s nationwide vote curbing immigration.
The aim of the talks is to re-introduce immigration quotas while respecting the needs of the Swiss economy and to maintain a set of bilateral treaties with Brussels, according to a joint statement by the justice, foreign and economics ministries.
It is in line with a government decision issued in June.
The Swiss negotiating team is to be led by Mario Gattiker of the Federal Migration Office assisted by Henri Gétaz of the Directorate for European Affairs, a unit of the foreign ministry.
The draft mandate will now be sent to the parliamentary foreign policy committees, the country’s 26 cantons, as well as the business community and trade unions for consultation.
In July, the EU said the principle of the free movement of people was not negotiable. The EU Commission rejected any talks on re-introducing immigration quotas.
This position was reiterated by a spokeswoman in Brussels on Wednesday.
The government has until 2017 to implement a voter decision to curb immigration. The accord on the free movement of people, which came into force in 2002 is directly linked to a package of other bilateral treaties on trade, transport and research.
The 28-nation EU is Switzerland's main trading partner.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch