Magazine article European Social Policy

Eu/switzerland : Swiss Trading on Free Movement Strongly Criticised

Magazine article European Social Policy

Eu/switzerland : Swiss Trading on Free Movement Strongly Criticised

Article excerpt

Economic circles and the political right-wing reacted, on 30 October, to strong threats from the Swiss Socialist Party on 26 October. Led by their president, it adopted - without batting an eyelid - a package of accompanying measures on free movement in the EU, without which they will oppose its extension to Croatia. Mainly, these concern enhancing labour laws.

The second-largest Swiss party is threatening to support the referendum promised by the leading anti-European and nationalist party UDC on a subject where the government is ready to face very strong opposition. Concern is so strong in the border regions, especially in Ticino near Milan, that trade unionists in this region have simultaneously called for the introduction of both national and cantonal preferences. It is useless to argue that such ideas contradict not only the agreement on free movement, but also risk undermining the strengthening of institutions, currently under discussion by Berne and the EU.

The EU is already critical of the accompanying measures, for example the rule obliging all foreign workers to announce eight days in advance their wish to move to Switzerland. Here, economic circles have expressed their incomprehension of the "incoherence and populism of a party that trades on free movement - while featuring Swiss accession to the EU in its programme".

These proposals come in a tense political context, as shown by the recent victories of xenophobic parties in the border regions, such as Geneva and Ticino. South of the Alps, where there has been deep unrest for several years, the left is calling for the restriction of work permits for Italian independents who want to move to Switzerland.

The Federal Council (government) has paid attention to these messages, resolving, on 15 May, to put the brakes on immigration with a safeguard clause - to the great displeasure of the European Commission. …

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