Swiss to work on immigration quotas without delay

GENEVA – After today’s tight vote to curtail “mass immigration” the Swiss federal government has vowed it will act as fast as possible to enact new measures.

In Bern, the President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, said this is the result of the Swiss “direct democracy” system and that the Federal Council will act swiftly to enact the public decision.

Simonetta Sommaruga, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police in charge of immigration, said the vote “was against most political parties and the government” as both the federal government and all Swiss political parties (except for the UDC) had rejected the initiative.

“It would be important for these political parties that were against this measure to examine why they failed to deliver; why their bases thought differently,” she said.

Here’s what the Swiss federal government said late today:

“The Swiss population has adopted a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration. This brings with it a change of system in Switzerland’s immigration policy. The new constitutional provisions require that immigration be restricted by means of quantitative limits and quotas. The Federal Council will set to work on implementing these without delay.

The new constitutional provisions require that residence permits for foreign nationals be restricted using quantitative limits and quotas. These limits and quotas will apply to all permits covered by legislation on foreign nationals, including cross-border commuters and asylum seekers, and must be geared towards Switzerland’s overall economic interests. Businesses must give Swiss nationals priority when hiring staff.

The new constitutional text does not specify how high these quotas should be, nor does it specify who should set and allocate them and according to what criteria. These details now need to be defined at the legislative level. The new constitutional provisions stipulate that the Federal Council and parliament have three years to implement the new system.”

Pivotal decision with far-reaching consequences

“The Federal Council interprets the outcome of this referendum as a reflection of unease with regard to population growth in recent years.

The Federal Council will submit a proposal on its implementation to parliament as soon as possible. As the new constitutional text runs contrary to the agreement on the free movement of persons, the Federal Council will also enter into discussion with the relevant bodies of the EU and its member states, in order to discuss the next steps and open negotiations. The constitutional provisions also allow a period of three years for these negotiations.”

Burkhalter said the Federal Council “will explore ways in which Switzerland’s relations with the EU can be put on a new footing,” and stressed that the agreement on the free movement of persons and other bilateral agreements will remain in place until a new legal status has been established.

“The Federal Council will now analyse what consequences the change of direction resulting from today’s decision will have on Switzerland’s European policy.”

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