Improving EU economy sparks plunge in Swiss immigration

Swiss-EU relations have been soured by the migration issue Keystone

The number of European Union workers arriving in Switzerland halved last year from a peak in 2013. Net immigration from EU states stood at 30,799 in 2017, writes the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, down from 60,957 fours years earlier.

This content was published on January 14, 2018 with agencies

The main reason for the decline in numbers is the improving economic situation in many EU countries, according to the State Secretariat for Migration. Portugal registered a negative immigration trend last year and there were 32% less net immigrants from Italy and a 10% drop from Germany.

Nevertheless, the conservative right Swiss People’s Party says it will press on with plans to promote a new initiative to curb immigration. People’s Party chief Albert Rösti told the newspaper that a long-term average of 80,000 net immigrants from all countries is too high. Last year, net immigration from all countries stood at 53,200.

+ Read more on the history of immigration in Switzerland

In 2014, Swiss voters backed a referendum to curb immigrants, but the People’s Party is unhappy with the compromise version of the vote that has actually been put into place. Rather than place limits on immigrants, Swiss companies have been told to favour Swiss workers when filling positions.

Fractious relationship

In the meantime, Switzerland continues its fractious negotiations with the EU on the future bilateral relationship. Documents recently uncovered by the media showed that the Swiss want to concentrate on five areas: the free movement of persons, mutual recognition of conformity agreement, agricultural products, overland transport and civil aviation.

This would replace the current tangle of 120 bilateral treaties between the two partners.

The SonntagsZeitung newspaper adds some more meat to the bone, declaring that Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis wants to set up a new institution to adjudicate disputes. This would replace the European Court of Justice as arbiter, an institution that is likely to put off the Swiss when the next bilateral package comes to a vote.

Swiss-EU relations soured following the 2014 immigration initiative, coupled with disagreements over Switzerland’s corporate tax system. Brexit has further complicated the situation. Last year, the EU slapped a one year limit on the Swiss stock exchange’s access to European markets

This provoked protests from Switzerland and threats that it would withhold a CHF1.3 billion cohesion payment designed to improve living standards in poorer EU states.

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