The government has rejected a proposal aimed at reversing immigration curbs for European Union citizens and came out in favour of presenting a counter-proposal.
“It is undemocratic to try and annul the result of such a recent vote,” said Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. She added that the cabinet was waiting for parliament to decide on the implementation of immigration quotas approved by voters in February 2014.
She said no details on a counter-proposal had been fixed, but the government wanted to enshrine the results of parliament’s discussions in a new constitutional amendment – as a counter-proposal to the initiative, known as “Out of the Dead End”.
“It is a rather unusual situation,” Sommaruga told a news conference on Wednesday. “Due to legal deadlines the government had to take a decision in principle now, even though discussions in parliament are still underway.”
The Out of the Dead End initiative was handed in 12 months ago, but no date for a nationwide ballot has been set.
In December, the Senate is due to continue a debate on implementing the immigration restrictions demanded by the successful 2014 anti-mass immigration initiative.
The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, last month agreed to stop short of strict quotas, but introducing a preferential status for Swiss residents on the labour market. The decision is aimed at preserving a bilateral accord with Brussels on the free movement of people.
The 28-nation EU is Switzerland’s main trading partner and has insisted that unlimited access to each others’ labour market is a policy tenet.
The rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which has been campaigning for immigration restrictions, has again accused the government of ignoring the result of the February 2014 vote.
It accused the government of trying to water down the initiative by accommodating the arguments of its political opponents in the counter-proposal.
The other main political parties, as well as the Out of the Dead End committee, have welcomed the government’s plan to present its own ideas to break a three-year impasse and avoid a conflict with the EU.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch