SWITZERLAND: Second Referendum on EU Immigration

After a petition was signed in Switzerland by over 100,000 people, the 8 million residents of Switzerland will now get a chance to have another say on the issue of immigration quotas for EU nationals.

With only 50.3%, in February 2014 the Swiss voted in favour of introducing quotas for EU migrants. The Swiss have until 2017 to implement this measure, however the quotas would violate the terms of Switzerland’s free movement treaty with the EU. Although the quotas could in theory be unilaterally imposed, this is likely to provoke retaliatory measures from the EU which could result in suspension of other EU-Swiss bilateral agreements, and/ or reduced market access to the EU for Swiss firms.

Presently Switzerland does not have a single deal with the EU, instead the deal is made up of 120 bilateral agreements which mean that Switzerland is currently party to the EU’s free movement of people. In 2012 Switzerland accepted four and a half times more EU migrants than the UK in gross terms in proportion to both populations, with almost a quarter of the country’s residents not having a Swiss passport. There are already quota systems in place for non-EEA nationals for certain types of permits.