Switzerland will hold referendum on introduction of immigration quotes

Switzerland will hold a referendum on 9th February 2014. The main topic of the referendum will be whether or not to impose quotas on the immigrants that come from the European Union. Although the Swiss government recommends that people should reject the quotes the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which has an anti-immigration agenda says that everyone should vote with “yes”.

The Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a press conference that a ‘yes’ vote would be likely to lead Switzerland to breach bilateral treaties with the EU allowing free movement of workers between Switzerland. Therefore there is a danger that the Swiss-EU relationships will be breached. According to the economic minister, a potential “yes” vote will create problems for Swiss companies that are exporting their products in the European Union. The Swiss people have already voted in 13 referendums in 2013.

Most recently on 24th November, it was announced that they had rejected a proposal to introduce a cap on executive pay. Switzerland is not itself part of the European Union but its most successful companies do business with EU countries extensively. The Banks such as UBS and Credit Suisse and pharmaceuticals Novartis and Roche employ highly skilled professionals from the E U countries on a regular base. In addition to that Switzerland have very high rates of immigration.

According to the Swiss statistical office in 2013, almost 27% of the population is comprised of immigrants or of children of immigrants. This has led to some resentment. The SVP claims that mass immigration has led to high crime and an increased cost of living for native Swiss citizens. In 2006, 86% of foreign residents in Switzerland came from the EU. Nearly a quarter of these were born in Switzerland but retain their parents’ nationality.

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