Tag Archives: Free movement

Leyen welcomes Swiss vote result

“Switzerland and the EU are more than just neighbours. We have very close and deep ties, rooted in a long, shared, European history. Geographical proximity plays a role of course, But, much more importantly, the close bonds between our citizens.About 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland and 450,000 Swiss live in the EU. Another 320,000 EU citizens cross the border daily to work in Switzerland” said, w President von der Leyen, while reacting upon the result of the Swiss referendum regarding freedom of movement with the EU in favour of EU-Switzerland close ties.

“The citizens of Switzerland have shown today that they value these ties.
Their vote upholds one of the core pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, to live and to work in Switzerland and the EU.

“I welcome this outcome. I see it as a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship.
I will soon speak to Mrs Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation. I will congratulate her on this result. Of course, I look forward to the Swiss Federal Council now moving swiftly on the signature and ratification of the International Framework Agreement that we negotiated in 2018.

“I will reiterate this message I passed last January when we met in Davos”.

Swiss voters have refused a proposal to end an accord with the EU, allowing the free movement of people.
In the outcome of the referendum early 62% said they wished to keep free movement, while 38% were against.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but has a series of interdependent treaties with the bloc which allow it to access to Europe’s free trade area.

The move to rein in immigration was proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), but opposed by the government.
An initiative to introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU to Switzerland narrowly passed in a 2014 referendum, reflecting upon Swiss-EU relations.
Swiss people are given a direct say in their own affairs under the country’s system of direct democracy. They are regularly invited to vote on various issues in national or regional referendums.

Suisse-EU free movement limit law failed

The Swiss by a large majority on September 27, Sunday, said ‘NO’ to a right-wing initiative that would have restricted the immigration of European Union nationals, according to projections released shortly after the polls closed.

According to the polling institute GFS-Bern, voters rejected by 63% the so-called limitation initiative launched by the SVP, the country’s leading party but to which all the other political forces were opposed as well as the economic world.

Gibraltar considers joining Schengen

Gibraltar is considering to joint the Schengen free movement area in a gesture of guranteeing the fluidity on its border with Spain after the UK left the European Union, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

Picardo remarks, made in an interview with AFP came just two weeks before Britain and Gibraltar formerly leave the bloc and enter into an 11-month period of intense negotiations to shape the future the UK-EU relationship.

“We talked about this issue before Brexit… about Gibraltar becoming part of the Schengen zone,” Picardo said.

The British enclave at the soutern point of Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar modus operandi counts on 28,000 crossings daily, and preserving it will be one of the central elements to talks when the transition period begins on February 1.

UK-Republic of Ireland freedom of movement

The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland concluded a deal to ensure their citizens will retain the right to live and work in each other’s countries after Britain exits from the EU.

The agreement secures the continuation of the Common Travel Area (CTA) that has been in place since 1922, when 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties left the United Kingdom to form an independent state.

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed May 8, free movement of people between Britain and the Republic of Ireland, and mutual access for citizens to social security, health and education will continue to function after Brexit.

Image: Dublin Bridge

Swiss cabinet against EU immigration referendum

The Swiss government said  it opposed curbing immigration from the European Union as suggested in a planned referendum because it  could harm exports to the country’s biggest trade partner.

“Cancelling the free movement of people would fundamentally call into question the bilateral path for Switzerland and Europe,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga  said at a press conference in Bern.

The 500-million strong EU insists its citizens be admitted to live and work freely in non-member Switzerland in exchange for enhanced Swiss access to the bloc’s Single market.

Anti-immigration members of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest party in parliament, have pushed to end that free movement on the grounds that it leaves the country without adequate tools to manage its growing population and encroaches on its sovereignty.

A referendum must be held on the matter as the required number of signatures has been gathered, but it remains unclear how much support such a proposal might garner in a nationwide vote. No date for the vote has been set yet.

The seven-member cabinet  said approving of the proposal at referendum would hurt Swiss efforts to attract qualified workers, stunt economic growth by crimping exports and raise the prices consumers pay for EU imports.


UK: from free movement to Swiss model?

New research carried out by leading immigration expert professor Jonathan Portes shows it may be feasible for the UK to remain in the single market – temporarily or permanently – while changing the way free movement of people operates to provide greater control.

The research by professor Portes at King’s College London and senior fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe, finds a new system could be designed that preserves the principle that European Economic Area (EEA) citizens could move to the UK to look for, and take up, work while giving the UK public greater assurance that migration from the rest of the EEA was monitored and, where appropriate, controlled. 

 The introduction of a “Swiss-style” system of temporary and targeted regional and/or occupation specific controls might be feasible. This would not be an “emergency brake”, as originally proposed by David Cameron and more recently by Nick Clegg. It would enable a targeted, temporary and proportionate response to migration pressures.

 There would however be significant challenges: the EU would have to accept some “bespoke” modifications to the legal framework to accommodate the UK. And the UK would have to implement major administrative changes. 

 There would be inevitable trade-offs between increased burdens on business and individuals and the degree of extra “control” afforded by such a system.

 “The British government could negotiate an arrangement whereby it can modify the operation of free movement of persons in ways that might allow it to remain in the single market. The Government has not yet asked, so it cannot yet know what the outcome of such a negotiation might be” –  professor Jonathan Portes said.

 “The negotiability of such changes would depend on the political context and on political will both in the UK and in the EU27. But it should not be concluded ex ante that they are impossible.”

Barnier: ‘Brexit means uncertainty’

“Brexit means uncertainty”, said Michel Barnier at the outset of the debate with European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)  members on 6 of July,“uncertainty for citizens, businesses and jobs”.

As the EU chief negotiator Barnier stressed his task is to negotiate on the basis of what the United Kingdom requests, including end to free movement for EU citizens, full autonomy of laws, no role for the European Court of Justice, and the autonomy to sign free trade agreements. The latter involves leaving the Customs union and the Single market.

But there was also one certainty, he said, namely that the UK would become a third country, and this would entail three main consequences:

  • basic freedoms – free movement of people, goods and capital – are indivisible;
  • here is no option for a sector by sector participation in the Single Market;
  • EU will keep its own independence in setting economic and social rules and standards that all third parties must respect.

The United Kingdom and the EU need to be aware that Brexit has a cost, Barnier continued, and it is the task of the negotiating team to keep this cost as low as possible. “From the EU’s side, there will be neither aggressiveness nor arrogance”,  – Mr Barnier ensured, – “but we need to be ready for any situation, even a no deal situation, although this would be the worst-case scenario.”

EESC members raised their concerns on different aspects of Brexit, including consumer rights, social rights, and the trade policy. Irish and Northern Irish members have drawn attention to the issue of the Good Friday Agreement, which was achieved in the framework of the EU.

After the UK referendum Brussels has claimed a substantial amount of funds from Britons in so called ‘divorce’ settlement, permitting the EU to continue functioning up to the end of the budgetary term (2020) without need to curb any of the European projects; the ‘allowance’ also suggests the incumbent Brussels leadership will pass on the set of the problems, related to the departure of the second net contributor to the EU purse, to the next team.

Swiss restrict Bulgarian and Romanian labor

Switzerland will restrict Bulgarian and Romanian citizens’ access to its labor market within one year  amid increased migration from those countries after limits were lifted last June.

The Swiss cabinet, whose problems with immigration from the European Union have been at rise since  2014 referendum demanding quotas to be imposed for foreign labor, will limit the number of five-year residence permits for Romanians and Bulgarians to level of one thousand (996).

While free movement of workers between Switzerland and the European Union is ensured by bilateral agreements, a special “safeguard clause” allows the Swiss to impose unilateral limits.

Migrant workers from Romania and Bulgaria, who have enjoyed freedom of movement since June 2016, exceeded the threshold last year, with their numbers in Switzerland rising by a net 3,300, about double the increase from 2015.

“Since introduction of full freedom of movement, Romanians and Bulgarian workers have been increasingly coming for seasonal jobs in sectors with higher-than-average unemployment rates,” the Swiss cabinet said. “The government is employing one of the tools at its disposal to control migration.”

Around 14,330 Romanians and 8,112 Bulgarians live in Switzerland according to the official data. Switzerland’s population of 8.4 million is about a quarter foreign.

PHOTO: illustration

May to end EU ‘free movement’ to UK

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May will make a pledge ahead of the June 8 election to end European Union free movement of people into Britain, the Daily Mail newspaper reported, citing unidentified party sources.

May will also include pledges in her election manifesto to pull out of both the EU Single market and European Court of Justice, the newspaper said.

May surprised allies, opponents and financial markets on Tuesday, 18.04.2017, when she called an early  election for June 8.


Swiss business – pro-EU27

An UBS  poll of 2,500 entrepreneurs and senior managers underscored the importance that Swiss business leaders assign to relations with their biggest export market in spite of the UK vote to leave the bloc undermining the EU cohesion.

Nearly two out of three top executives would prefer Switzerland to put ties with the European Union on a new footing by adopting a comprehensive treaty replacing the existing patchwork of bilateral sectoral accords, a survey showed.

It also shows a split between business and right-wing political parties that oppose ceding too much power to the EU under a treaty that would make Switzerland automatically adopt EU rules with an EU court as dispute referee.

The survey showed two thirds of respondents wish an institutional framework agreement with the EU27 , while one third is in favor of keeping the existing bilateral accords, and only eight procent back scrapping the bilateral agreements.

The existing accords ease Swiss access to the Single market in return for ‘free movement  of people’ between EU and Switzerland. The Swiss parliament last year dodged a conflict with Brussels by adopting a system that aims to curb immigration by giving local people first crack at open jobs, skirting voters’ demand for outright quotas in a binding 2014 referendum.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said last week after meeting Swiss President Doris Leuthard that a provisional treaty could be ready by year’s end.