EU relations to be put to Swiss voters again, president says

  
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter speaking at the Geneva International Conference on Syria. 22 January 2014. [UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré/Flickr]

Swiss voters will have another say on relations with the European Union, Switzerland's president said on Thursday, after valuable trade treaties with the bloc were put in jeopardy by a February referendum to curb immigration.

The Swiss government is struggling to salvage relations with the EU after the bloc last week dismissed any renegotiation of a 12-year-old pact guaranteeing the free movement of workers.

That pact, part of a package of seven which stand or fall together, was tripped up by a referendum in February, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), to impose quotas on the number of foreign workers allowed into the country.

"It will be necessary for the people of Switzerland to vote again on what they want the future of the bilateral agreements to be ... by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017," President Didier Burkhalter said in an interview with Swiss television to commemorate the 1 August independence holiday.

Free movement of people is one of the fundamental policies of the European Union, and Switzerland, while not a member of the 28-nation bloc, has to uphold that principle in order to benefit from favourable trade conditions.

The accord currently in place between Switzerland and the EU covers economic and technological cooperation, public procurement, mutual acceptance of diplomas and licences, agricultural trade, aviation, and road and rail traffic.

The Swiss government, which opposed the quotas before the vote, is now forced to write the result of the referendum vote into law.

The referendum, which passed by less than 20,000 votes, has also unsettled the Swiss business establishment.

Security systems maker Tyco International and oil and gas services provider Weatherford are two firms which have already decided to move company headquarters out of Switzerland to Ireland, in part because of the immigration rules but also due to caps on executive pay.

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Comments

Iwantout's picture

Quite right to and perfectly in line with standard EU operating policies, make them carry on voting until they finally get the right answer.

How come South Korea has almost unfettered access to the single market (98.7% according to the EU) yet freedom of movement does not figure in that relationship ?

Southron's picture

Uh the Swiss are not members of the EU, its their call if they want to repeat referendums.

And SK & EU enjoy liberalized trade of goods.. as in no tariffs. Regulatory discrepancies still exist, Capital and people flows are altogheter out of the equation.
Not the same thing than with CH.

Jay's picture

Cheap labor, depressed wages, greater burden on the social welfare, and education systems are the hallmarks of mass immigration. Then there is the language problems for the schools in particular which leads to dropouts and increased crime.

an european's picture

Really ..for me unknown !
since the U.S. consists of black white yellow reds ....
Apparently England is very healthy with them too ...

Iwantout's picture

No one else has mentioned race, all the comments have been about the economic issues associated with uncontrolled mass migration. It is the classic Europhile response, suggest that anyone who is questioning “The Project” is somehow racist.

an european's picture

I agree completely that the Swiss votes resulting somehow racist but now Switzerland can vote again to full exploit the market again .

Jay's picture

Maybe not racists alone but also ethnic origin also. Government can shove immigration down your throat but without incentives and or penalties nothing will change. People's attitudes and tolerances may take centuries if ever to change.

By all indicators today, the European market is heading down the toilet as investors continued to worry about the fallout from the tougher sanctions on Russia. Both Euro and UK's pound have been dropping against the dollar all week.

Jay's picture

"Non-EU citizens twice as likely to be unemployed" Mmmm, discrimination comes to mind.

Gerry's picture

Of course free movement is essential. Those who don't like it can always just lock the door, and refuse to get out.

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