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World Swiss government warns against cancelling EU free-movement pact

10:35  11 february  2020
10:35  11 february  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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Switzerland refuses to sign a deal granting Croatians free access to the Swiss work market, after voters backed a proposal to curb immigration. Switzerland said the accord could not be signed "in its current form", after a recent referendum invalidated the Swiss - EU pact on freedom of movement .

A right-wing Swiss party has started a campaign for a referendum to scrap a deal allowing border-free travel of EU citizens to Switzerland , potentially adding Those behind the initiative are advocating for the termination of the so-called Free Movement agreement, which allows EU nationals to enter, live

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government on Tuesday urged voters to reject a referendum push by the right-wing Swiss People's Party to end an accord with the European Union on the free movement of citizens.

a flag hanging on a cloudy day: FILE PHOTO: An EU flag flies beside Switzerland's national flag near the German-Swiss border in Rheinfelden© Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann FILE PHOTO: An EU flag flies beside Switzerland's national flag near the German-Swiss border in Rheinfelden

Should the measure win a binding vote on May 17 in what is being called Switzerland's "Brexit moment", the country risks losing its privileged access to the EU single market that is the lifeblood of the export-led Swiss economy.

It could also end up kicking neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, out of the Schengen system of passport-free travel and the Dublin accord on handling asylum requests, officials said in a statement ahead of a news conference.

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The European Commission in Brussels said in a statement that the vote went against the principle of free movement of people. It said it would examine the implications for Swiss voters apparently have restored strict immigration quotas, ending a pact with the European Union , returns showed Sunday.

The verdict shocked the European and Swiss elites as it overturned the key pact governing links As anti -immigration campaigners across Europe took delight in the Swiss backlash against Freedom of movement is one of the four keystones of the single market. Switzerland ' s access to the market

a large body of water with a city in the background: FILE PHOTO: General view shows Lake Zurich and the city of Zurich© Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann FILE PHOTO: General view shows Lake Zurich and the city of Zurich

"That would have painful consequences, primarily for security and asylum issues but also for border traffic and freedom to travel," the government said.

The referendum drive reflects unease with the influx of foreigners. Immigration contributed a net 55,000 people last year, when the foreign population stood at 2.1 million, or around a quarter of the overall 8.5 million.

Business leaders say they need skilled foreign workers, and imposing limits on EU citizens would violate the free-movement accord that enhances Swiss access to the single market.

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European leaders are pledging to review the EU ’ s relationship with its Alpine neighbor in its entirety. "This goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland But he added that "the Swiss government now has to work out which conclusions it draws from it and

The freedom of movement for workers is a policy chapter of the acquis communautaire of the European Union . The free movement of workers means that nationals of any member state of the European Union can take up an employment in another member state on the same conditions as the nationals

A "guillotine clause" means ending free movement would scupper other pillars in a web of 120 custom-made bilateral pacts, including accords on the mutual recognition of industrial standards, public procurement, agriculture, research, and transport by land and air.

The eurosceptic People's Party -- the biggest in parliament and with two of the seven federal cabinet seats -- has long fought to take national control of immigration.

Its proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy would allow a year to negotiate an end to free movement, but chances of this are practically nil given the EU's hard line on a key policy tenet.

Battling the referendum campaign is a priority for the Swiss government, which has struggled to put relations with the surrounding EU on a new footing.

Brussels wants the Swiss to endorse a new treaty that would have Bern routinely adopt single market rules and create a more effective platform to resolve disputes.

The Swiss government has dragged its feet for months while trying to forge consensus on how to proceed, annoying Brussels and triggering a row over cross-border stock trading.

The treaty ran aground amid opposition that spanned the normally pro-Europe center left to the anti-EU far right. Critics say the pact infringes Swiss sovereignty to the extent that it would never get through parliament or pass a referendum.

(Reporting by Michael Shields, Editing by William Maclean)

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