Switzerland is to reimpose quotas on workers from central and eastern Europe as it faces domestic criticism of soaring immigration. The move will in effect cut the number of permits granted annually by two thirds.
Swiss Justice Minister, Simonetta Sommaruga explained the Swiss cabinet was reacting to several concerns in the country including issues of integration.
“The Federal Council is not afraid but rather it is sensitive to the fears and the concerns of people who say while its positive there are so many people who want to come to work here, there are also things that make us worried,” she said.
The government will impose a quota of 2,000 permits for the year from May 1 on eight European member countries. They are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Bulgaria and Romania are separate cases.
Switzerland says its within its rights to invoke a “safeguard clause” in its agreement with the European Union but EU Commission has accused it of discrimination.
EU Commission spokesperson Michael Mann said: “It violates the agreement on free movement of people. There were exceptions for the new member states until 2011 but these exceptions are over now and according to us Switzerland does not have the right to make a difference between the different member states. We are 27, full stop.”
Switzerland’s unemployment rate is currently a low three per cent although it has seen a recent influx of immigrant workers. A right-wing party has blamed immigration for what it calls “the erosion of cultural values”.