Parliament split on free movement of workers

The House of Representatives has voted to link two EU-related labour agreements, even though this could undermine Switzerland's bilateral accords with Europe.

This content was published on May 28, 2008 - 17:48

The house went against an earlier Senate decision by voting on Wednesday to treat the issues separately.

One issue is the free movement of people, under which EU and Swiss citizens are allowed to work in each other's countries. It is part of the package of agreements which came into force in 2002. Switzerland now has to decide whether to continue this accord.

The other topic is the extension of this free movement to the two new EU members, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Slovene EU presidency reminded Switzerland on Tuesday that from the EU point of view the two issues were inseparable.

Failure to grant the same terms to Bulgaria and Romania would mean that all the other bilateral accords in force since 2002 would be suspended – these include overland transport and aviation, agriculture, public procurement, and barriers to trade and research.

The Swiss People's Party and the Radicals joined forces with several Christian Democrats to overturn the proposal, while a number of Green parliamentarians abstained.

The government also wants two separate decisions, but the Senate has voted in favour of a package.

The issue will now return to the Senate for a second debate.

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