Swiss rightwing party wants another vote on EU immigration

Switzerland has struggled to balance the implementation of the will of the Swiss people with maintaining good relations with the EU Keystone

The Swiss People’s Party has decided to launch a second people’s initiative to limit immigration from European Union countries. It is aimed at ensuring “hard” restrictions are implemented unlike the watering down of its successful campaign in 2014. 

This content was published on June 26, 2017 - 13:00 and agencies/jmh

At Saturday's annual assembly, party delegates approved the launch of a new people’s initiative limiting the free movement of people from the EU zone. According to the party’s president, Albert Rösti, the initiative will be launched by the end of the year. Once the group has gathered at least 100,000 signatures in support of the proposal, it will be put to a nationwide vote at a later stage. 

The arguments are likely to be the same as the party’s successful 2014 initiative to limit immigration from the EU in 2014, which won the support of 50.3% of voters. It called for Switzerland to “autonomously manage the immigration of foreigners” by re-introducing “ceilings and annual quotas”. 

Careful wording 

The vote proved a headache for the Swiss government as it jeopardised bilateral relations with EU, which was unwilling to budge on the free movement of people. In December 2016, parliament found a compromise by deciding to change the law to prioritise Swiss workers instead of fixing quotas on workers from the EU. 

This compromise that was not to the liking of the People’s Party, who termed it a betrayal of the will of the Swiss people. 

This time around, the party wants to word the initiative in such a way to avoid any wiggle room for a broader interpretation. It will be working with the conservative Campaign for an Independent and Neutral SwitzerlandExternal link to develop the specific content of the initiative.

Experts say the timing of the initiative makes it an ideal campaign tool ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections. 

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