Switzerland and the European Union “remain far apart” in their positions in negotiations over last year’s vote to re-introduce quotas on EU immigrants, according to Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga who is in Brussels for a key meeting on the subject.
Sommaruga, who met with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Monday, said there was very little margin for negotiation on either side. The vote by 50.3% of the Swiss population on February 9, 2014 to limit EU immigration placed the free movement of people agreement in question and has forced Switzerland and the EU to re-negotiate key aspects of their bilateral agreements.
For his part, Juncker was not much more optimistic than Sommaruga that agreements could be reached, saying “there has not been a convergence of positions” but that “friends need to continue to speak together”.
Juncker and Sommaruga agreed to further “intensive meetings” to achieve a climate of cooperation.
In addition, the EU and Switzerland intend to periodically address and review issues and concerns surrounding the free movement of people accords – laws that allow Swiss and European citizens to move freely across each other’s borders and access each other’s labour markets.
The agreement to continue to work on the free movement agreement signalled that there is a mutual desire to continue the Swiss-EU relationship, according to Sommaruga. Jucker also emphasised that the EU wants to continue to have a good relationship to Switzerland.
Last week, cabinet was expected to detail a strategy on how Switzerland would negotiate with the EU going forward regarding the February 9 vote. However, such a strategy has not yet been announced, leading to public speculation over the difficulty of Switzerland’s position.
swissinfo.ch and agencies