[QODLink]
Europe

Switzerland restricts EU immigration

Justice and police ministry says it will now limit resident permits to citizens of other European nations.

Last Modified: 24 Apr 2013 20:42
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Catherine Ashton said the move disregards the "great benefits" that freedom of movement brings to Europe [EPA]

Switzerland has announced that it will extend immigration limits to all European Union countries amid pressure from the political far-right.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member, already has a quota in place for eight Eastern European members that joined the bloc in 2004, as well as special, stricter regulations for the newest members Bulgaria and Romania, which joined in 2007.

The justice and police ministry said on Wednewsday that it would now limit resident permits to a maximum of 53,700 annually for citizens from the remaining 17 EU countries.

Under an agreement with the European Union, Switzerland can invoke this so-called safeguard clause if immigration rises above a certain level.

The decision drew criticism from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who said it ran counter to agreements between the 27-member bloc and the Alpine country.

"These measures disregard the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU," she added.

The government's step came after the far-right Swiss People's Party and the right-wing ecological group Ecopop launched initiatives for referenda to slow immigration.

The overall number of immigrants had exceeded those leaving the country by 60,000 to 80,000 over the past years, the ministry said.

"The government does not view the invocation of the safeguard clause as an unfriendly act towards the EU," Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters.

"It's a fact that there is unease among the population, and it's necessary to take this unease seriously," she added.

250

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.