Switzerland has officially submitted a request to the European Union to adjust the terms of the free movement of people accord, which was made necessary after Swiss voters in February opted to limit immigration from the 28-nation EU.
Last month, the cabinet agreed on a draft law that would re-introduce annual quotas effective from 2017. However, in seeking a compromise, the government underlined that EU workers would still enjoy less stringent immigration requirements than those from so-called “third countries” outside the Union.
The foreign ministry on Monday announced that the head of the Federal Office for Migration has written to EU officials to formally ask Brussels to adjust the agreement with Switzerland accordingly. This is possible under article 18 of the agreement, which says that one party is entitled to submit a proposal for its adaptation to the Joint Committee overseeing Swiss-EU relations.
In June, upon announcing its quota proposal, members of cabinet warned that it went against the terms of the free movement of people agreement, in place since 2002.
“You can turn it any way you want, but fundamentally the new constitutional article is incompatible with free movement,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at the time.
Much detail work still needs to be done to hammer out the exact terms of the EU-Swiss immigration agreement going forward.
The justice, foreign and economics ministries have been asked to come up with a negotiating mandate to be discussed by the government later this year. This will be based on an examination of possible internal and external policy scenarios on the one hand and, on the other, on the terms of the February 9 vote.
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