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Schengen accords take effect in Switzerland

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Schengen accords take effect in Switzerland

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The free circulation of people but not necessarily of goods will now be the norm in Switzerland. The Alpine nation has always had strict limits on the importation of certain goods, especially agricultural products like wine and meat, which are a lot cheaper in neighbouring countries. Swiss residents know their quotas. So, for them, there will not be huge changes at the border.

But with Schengen, anybody who enters one of the member countries can now cross the borders of all the other Schengen nations without needing to show a passport. Of the 27 EU member states, 22 belong to Schengen. Great Britain, Cyprus, Ireland, and newcomers Bulgaria and Romania have declined. The non-EU participating countries are Norway, Iceland, and now Switzerland. However, this may not last very long. The country is holding a referendum in February on whether workers from Romania and Bulgaria should have the right to travel to and from and work freely in Switzerland, like other EU citizens. The newest addition to the Swiss cabinet, Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, comes from the right-wing party UDC, which insists the result must be a resounding no. Yvan Perrin, UDC Vice-President said: “Ueli Maurer is going to have to fight for the extension of the bilateral accords to include Romania and Bulgaria. But the UDC has a clear position. That is 90 per cent of the party are against it. Ueli Maurer must now, with his new hat, come to us and tell us why it is a good thing and that would be really bizarre.” One thing is sure. The UDC and its supporters have been very strong in recent elections. If the result of the forthcoming referendum is negative, Brussels has already warned Switzerland it could be forced to pull out of Schengen.