Swiss-EU negotiations back on track

Switzerland has struggled to reconcile a popular vote to limit EU workers with the free movement of people agreement with the EU Keystone

Swiss President Doris Leuthard and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have announced an “unblocking” of negotiations at all levels, with regard to Switzerland’s decision to impose immigration quotas on workers from the EU. 

This content was published on April 6, 2017 and agencies

“Technical discussions have resumed in all areas,” said Leuthard at a joint press conference in Brussels on Wednesday. 

"All that was blocked can be negotiated from now onwards," said Juncker.

In an interview with Swiss papers Tribune de Genève, 24 Heures and Corriere del Ticino, the Swiss president said that Switzerland was not a country that picks what it likes, as is commonly perceived by the EU. She added that the trade balance was largely in favour of the EU given that Switzerland is second largest investor in the region. 

Despite the thaw in the stalled negotiations, Leuthard said it was better to have a quality agreements than one at all costs. She added that it was better to wait another year if it meant a better deal. However, she dismissed the idea of waiting until the Brexit negotiations were resolved stating that the two discussions were different. According to her, Britain is only looking at a free-trade deal while Switzerland is already well integrated into the EU common market.

Immigration quotas 

On February 9, 2014, 50.3% of voters approved an initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party against immigration which specified that Switzerland should “autonomously manage the immigration of foreigners” by reintroducing “ceilings and annual quotas”. From the moment the initiative was launched, it was clear that it violated Switzerland’s free movement agreement with the EU. 

Since 2014, politicians have tried to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable: how to limit the number of EU workers entering Switzerland without breaching the free movement of people accord with the 28-country bloc. Officials in Brussels have said the agreement cannot be renegotiated. 

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