Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / Europe

Switzerland rejects curbs on freedom of movement

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-29 09:45
Share - WeChat

Voters in Switzerland rejected a proposal to limit the free movement of people and immigration from the European Union in a referendum on Sunday.

The vote had been initiated by the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party, known as the SVP, which claimed current regulations would lead to overpopulation, rising housing costs and a strained welfare system.

The SVP had warned that the country faced "uncontrolled and excessive immigration" and had called for the free movement of people between Switzerland and EU countries to be scrapped.

Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that the plan was rejected by 61.7 percent of voters, compared to 38.3 percent in favor.

It said all but four of the country's 26 regions rejected the SVP's push for preferential access to jobs and benefits to people from Switzerland.

Switzerland's government had opposed the proposed change in policy, which allows for an average of 75,000 EU citizens per year to enter the country. If passed, the proposal would have strained its relationship with the EU.

Although it is surrounded on all sides by EU member countries, Switzerland is not itself a member of the EU, but is part of the Schengen Area that allows passport-free movement between many European countries.

Foreigners make up a quarter of Switzerland's 8.6 million population and many are EU citizens. According to Reuters news agency, the initiative would have deprived business of skilled workers and would have effectively ended access to the EU single market.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the outcome of the vote. She said the result "upholds one of the core pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, to live and to work in Switzerland and the EU "and that it was "a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship".

A similar plan to limit immigrants from the EU to Switzerland narrowly passed in a 2014 referendum, damaging Swiss-EU relations.

But politicians had refused to fully implement it, prompting the SVP to get the issue back on the ballot.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter welcomed the result. "The bilateral path is the right one for Switzerland and for the EU. The Swiss people have confirmed this path again today," she said. "Especially at this time, during the difficult economic situation caused by the coronavirus crisis, good relations with our neighbors and with the EU are important."

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349