The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has described a move to curb the number of foreigners in Switzerland as "inhuman", and said it would badly affect Swizerland's image if approved in a nationwide vote next month.This content was published on August 23, 2000 - 14:21
Ogi said the government's efforts to defeat the proposal - which calls for the number of foreigners to be limited to 18 per cent of the population - would be one of the most important items on its agenda in the second half of this year.
Speaking on Wednesday, following the first cabinet meeting after the summer break, Ogi repeated that if the proposal was accepted in a referendum on September 24 it would have a negative impact on the economy and Switzerland's humanitarian tradition.
The government, big business and the executives of all major parties have urged voters to reject the initiative. But latest opinion polls indicate only a slim majority is likely to vote against it.
A delegates' meeting of one of the cabinet parties, the Swiss people's Party, voted last weekend in favour of the measure. But individual cantonal parties, including Berne and Zurich, have come out against it.
Two other government members - the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, and the justice minister, Ruth Metzler - last week lent their weight to the campaign against the initiative, arguing that it would harm Switzerland's growing economy and could adversely affect relations with the European Union.
But the initiative's leading backer, Philipp Müller, rejects allegations that the introduction of the 18 per cent quota would deprive the economy of much-needed labour. He says it would still allow the state to issue 72,000 new work permits a year.
Müller also denies that adoption of the quota would threaten Switzerland's bilateral accords with the EU.
The foreign population of Switzerland currently stands at over 19 per cent.
swissinfo with agencies
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