The Swiss are preparing to vote on whether Romanians and Bulgarians should be allowed to live and work in Switzerland without a visa.
The far-right, which called for the referendum, has been leading an aggressive campaign against extending the existing free movement agreement with the EU to Bulgaria and Romania. The latest to join the EU in 2007, they are the only two members excluded from the deal. “We think these countries aren’t ready, both economically and from a security point of view,” says Yvan Perrin, Vice-President of the Swiss People’s Party. “Economically, there is a huge gap between the quality of life here and in those countries. It’s not just us saying these countries are doing nothing to fight criminality, the European Commission also says it in a report, which concludes that Bulgaria has done nothing against corruption, and Romania is doing very little.” Under the agreement implemented in 2002, any EU citizen can take a job in Switzerland and vice-versa. Romanians have been shocked by the fight being waged against them by the far-right: “I think it’s a lie to say that after the referendum on the 8th of February, massive waves of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants are going to invade Switzerland. That’s not true, Romania and Bulgaria are countries that are growing economically,” said Romanian journalist Miruna Coca-Cozma. Polls suggest a majority of Swiss are expected to vote in favour of extending the deal to Bulgaria and Romania, although an increasing number are hesitant. A “no” vote would automatically cancel the other free labour accords with the EU.