European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has made it clear that without the free movement of people, Switzerland would not have privileged access to the European market.This content was published on November 10, 2013 - 11:21
In an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag, Barroso said Switzerland currently enjoyed privileges never previously afforded to a third state.
The free movement of people is set to be a source of much discussion in Switzerland over the next couple of years.
At the beginning of 2014, voters will have their say on the first of three referendums, an initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to limit mass immigration. That will be followed by votes on limiting foreigners and extending the free movement of people to Croatia.
Barroso said he didn’t want to comment on specific Swiss referendums, but instead wanted to highlight the “fundamental significance of the free movement of people for the EU as one of our basic freedoms, next to the free movement of goods, services and capital”.
These elements were inseparable, he added, and that member states would never accept detaching the free movement of people from the other basic freedoms.
A “no” to the free movement of people would be an “accident”, according to Barroso.
He pointed out that the EU had given the Swiss economy privileged access to a domestic market of 500 million consumers. “From an economic point of view it is central for Switzerland to hang on to this access,” he said.
Common labour market
The labour accord with 15 EU as well as three EFTA member states took effect in 2002 following Swiss voters’ approval in a nationwide vote.
It is considered a key bilateral accord for non- EU member Switzerland with the 28-nation bloc.
The treaty was extended to ten new EU member states two years later, gradually introducing free access to each other’s labour markets.
In 2009 the accord was extended to an additional two new EU member countries in eastern Europe following another nationwide ballot.
Under the accord, Switzerland and all EU and EFTA countries benefit from unlimited access to each other’s labour markets by 2016.
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