Switzerland’s business elite published an appeal in a Swiss newspaper Sunday (12 October) to save the country’s accords with the European Union from unravelling, due to a vote earlier this year to curb immigration from the bloc.
The Swiss government said in June that it would introduce quotas for EU citizens from 2017, after voters in February narrowly backed proposals to curtail immigration. The move could violate a free movement of citizens pact, and threaten Switzerland’s other agreements with the 28 member union.
Switzerland will also vote on an even more radical initiative on 30 November, which proposes capping immigration at just 0.2% of the resident population, or the equivalent of 16,000 people per year.
More than 100 members of Switzerland’s business, economic and political elite signed the appeal, including Swiss Re Chairman Walter Kielholz, Lonza Chairman Rolf Soiron, Nestle Vice-Chairman Andreas Koopmann and former Swiss National Bank Chairman Jean-Pierre Roth, Schweiz am Sonntag said.
The document, published on the newspaper’s website without a full list of signatories, warned against Switzerland’s “self-isolation”.
“[We] ask all citizens, particularly the young, to take part in a realistic dialogue on Europe based on facts, with the aim of giving Switzerland a coherent, long-term policy in this area that will allow the country to represent its interests in a European context with success,” the announcement said.
The limits on immigration are widely opposed by Swiss businesses, as they rely heavily on foreign labour in all areas of the economy.
ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer told Swiss magazine Bilanz in October that Switzerland should think twice before implementing February’s vote too rigidly.