February 8, 2011 By

Swiss Immigration: Final Results Show 50.3% Back Quotas

9Amidst increasing debate across Europe about migration and the impact of free movement of people, Swiss voters narrowly supported a referendum proposal to bring back strict quotas for immigration from the European Union countries. According to the final results, 50.3 % voted in favor.

The vote invalidates the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement. Switzerland is not a member of the EU; but has adopted large sections of the EU policy. The European Union officials said that they regretted the outcome of the vote and would examine its implications. In a statement, the European Commission said it regretted that an “initiative for the introduction of quantitative limits to immigration has been passed by this vote.  “This goes against the principle of free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland. The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole. In this context, the Federal Council’s position on the result will also be taken into account.”

The issue had been boiling up in Switzerland for years, and for Brussels, free movement is important to the participation in Europe’s single market. Since half the Swiss exports are sold in the EU, exclusion from the market would adversely affect Switzerland’s booming economy. Swiss employers increasingly rely on highly qualified staff from across Europe. French speaking areas voted against the quotas; while German speaking regions divided   and the Italian speaking canton of Ticino voted firmly in favor, reports say.

Despite a flourishing economy and low unemployment rates, the Swiss still worry immigration. A quarter of the eight million people are foreign, and last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived.   Since 2007, most of the EU’s 500 million residents have been on an equal footing with locals in the Swiss job market. The Swiss government and business leaders say free movement is important to Switzerland’s economic success, allowing employers to choose skilled staff from across Europe.

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