EU Won’t Budge on Open Borders, Switzerland’s Government Warns

Catherine Bosley

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland won’t have much luck in getting the European Union to modify its open-door immigration policy, its government warned.

Whoever claims that canceling “the free movement of persons is possible with clever diplomatic steps is pushing their luck,” Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said at a press conference in Bern on Tuesday. Such a contention “fails to take recent history into account,” she said.

In a move with parallels to Brexit, Switzerland’s euro-skeptics want to put an end to the open-doors policy allowing citizens of EU countries to take up jobs and residence in Switzerland without special permission. A plebiscite will be held on May 17 to decide the matter.

The free movement provision is, however, part of a whole package of agreements between Bern and Brussels that regulate Swiss companies’ access to the EU market. Switzerland trades goods worth 1 billion francs ($1 billion) a day with the bloc.

The government is therefore opposed to the May 17 measure, saying it endangers the country’s prosperity.

Brussels already declined to open negotiations after the Swiss voted in 2014 to implement immigration curbs. The measure was later watered down, meaning the open-border policy for EU citizens still stands, and prompting Switzerland’s anti-immigration party to launch the second plebiscite.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Bosley in Zurich at cbosley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jan Dahinten at jdahinten@bloomberg.net, Zoe Schneeweiss, Crystal Chui

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