People’s Party figurehead considers safeguard clause

This content was published on July 19, 2015 - 14:49 and agencies
Former cabinet minister Blocher is one of the harshest critics of current immigration policy Keystone

Christoph Blocher, strongman of the party behind an approved initiative to limit immigration, says he would consider calling on a so-called safeguard clause as a way to apply the terms of the February 2014 vote.

In an interview with the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper, Blocher said that “there is just one solution I’m interested in: one that massively reduces immigration”. But the leader in the conservative right Swiss People's Party said that discussions with business leaders had led him to consider the oft-discussed idea of invoking a “safeguard clause,” which would allow free movement of people up to a certain quota of immigrants per year. 

Under the terms of a 1999 accord with the European Union, Switzerland has the right to invoke the safeguard clause, which caps immigration for a limited period of time. It was used in 2013 to curb EU immigration, and some politicians have advocated it as a way to apply the terms of the vote on February 9, 2014 to re-introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU. 

According to the Schweiz am Sonntag, representatives from the centre-right Christian Democratic and Conservative Democratic parties, as well as former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and conflict management expert Michael Ambühl, have advocated calling on the safeguard clause as a way to apply the terms of the February 2014 vote. 

Although nothing has been formally decided at a governmental level, Blocher told the Schweiz am Sonntag that the immigration limit for the clause that had been suggested to him stood at 21,000 people per year. In 2014, about 79,000 total immigrants entered Switzerland. 

If the clause were invoked, a quota system would then apply, but Blocher did not want to specify how those quotas would or should work. 

Nor was he interested in whether the European Union would negotiate over such an application of the safeguard clause. 

“If the EU is not ready to negotiate, we must negotiate ourselves,” he said. “I would say to the EU that it had not respected the terms of the bilateral agreements, and so Switzerland has to act.” 

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