Last week the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) and Action for a neutral independent Switzerland (ASIN) began collecting the 100,000 signatures required to launch a new vote to limit immigration into Switzerland from EU and EFTA nations.
The new initiative to limit immigration is less ambiguous than the one put to a vote on 9 February 2014. Instead of requiring the government to limit immigration, this one will ask voters whether or not they want to keep the agreement between the EU and Switzerland on free movement of people – full initiative text.
The EU has said repeatedly that the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the bloc are an all-or-nothing package. If a majority of Swiss voters vote to end the agreement on free movement of people the whole deal, including trade, might unravel.
- Switzerland’s patchwork of EU deals and their history – at a glance (Le News)
- A 5-step guide to Switzerland’s immigration changes (Le News)
If the vote is successful, Switzerland’s Federal Council will have one year to negotiate an end to the agreement on Free Movement of People. If negotiations are unsuccessful the government would be forced to breach the agreement.
The new initiative was born from the view, held by many on the right, that the government’s implementation of the successful 9 February 2014 vote to limit mass immigration was a fudge that wasn’t faithful to the will of the people.
- Most Swiss put EU agreements before immigration quotas according to survey (Le News)
- Swiss choose immigration quotas over EU bilaterals (Le News)
Those behind the initiative say the current EU agreement, which allows 500 million EU citizens to live in Switzerland, is untenable. They argue Switzerland needs to control migration rather than continue with the current system which automatically grants EU and EFTA citizens the right to move to Switzerland.
Speaking to Swiss broadcaster RTS, Roger Nordmann, president of the Socialist Party, said that a possible merit of this new text is that it is focused on ending the bilateral agreements, a sort of Swiss Brexit. He thinks this will bring clarity and doesn’t think Switzerland’s population will want to find itself in a situation like the UK is in currently.
- The evolution of Switzerland’s foreign population since 2000 (Le News)
- Swiss immigration down to level when doors opened to EU (Le News)
In an email the organising committee says that there has been net immigration of nearly one million people into Switzerland since free movement of people came into force in 2002.
Numbers from Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office show net immigration of 967,000 from 2002 to 2016. This figure includes net emigration of 82,000 Swiss nationals and net immigration of 371,000 people from outside the EU and EFTA. The remaining 678,000 net arrivals were from EU and EFTA nations.
Organisers of the referendum have until 18 June 2019 to collect 100,000 valid signatures.