Switzerland will reintroduce immigration quotes for EU citizens
Anti-immigrant movements in Europe received a boost during the last week when Switzerland voted for return on immigration quotas for EU citizens. The results from the referendum will create a lot of uncertainties in the relationships between the EU and Switzerland.
The referendum was initialized by the far-right party which demands restrictions for EU migrants and the measures were supported by 50,4% of the voters. The vote split Switzerland east to west, with the francophone west voting against the quotas and the German-speaking east backing the clampdown. The European Commission expressed its regrets about the results and said that they will have a negative impact on the bilateral relationships between Switzerland and the Union.
While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it is closely integrated with it and is part of the free passport zone known as the Schengen area. The vote to cap immigration throws this into question, undermining several bilateral agreements between Brussels and Berne, and challenging the Schengen system since the caps will also apply to EU citizens who previously enjoyed unfettered travel and working rights in Switzerland under the open borders system.
It is expected that the referendum will provide a boost to many Eurosceptic parties in the Union, three months before the elections in May. The result of the vote was a little bit surprising given the fact that the preliminary result was showing that the eurosceptics will loose. In addition to that Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world and has an unemployment rate of less than 4%.
Brussels may soon demand renegotiation of some of the agreements that allow free movement of the Swiss citizens in EU and free access to the common market. About 80,000 EU citizens per year settle in Switzerland, coming from Germany, Italy and France.