Switzerland's economy is booming at the moment, and unemployment is low, but many Swiss worry about what they see as a looming problem, namely, immigration. Last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived in Switzerland with a relatively small overall population of around 5 million, and foreigners now make up 23% of the inhabitants. It is the continent's second highest foreign population after Luxembourg, for whom 42% are immigrants.
The Swiss voted to bring back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries last week. Results showed 50.3% voted in favour of imposing limits. The vote invalidates the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement, one of the four key “freedoms” which include the movement of goods, capital, services and of course people. They like the other three of course.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the vote would cause "a host of difficulties for Switzerland" and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "it will hurt Switzerland to be inward-looking".
Fiercely independent Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but has adopted large sections of EU policy and the benefits they bring. Seems however they don’t like having to tow the line when they don’t like the costs of these benefits.
Viviane Reading, Vice Chancellor of the European Union (and a resident of Luxembourg herself) seemed decidedly unimpressed with the Swiss and indeed many other Europeans who feel the same way. She said that if you want the good you have to accept the stuff you may not like quite so much. You’ve got to have the whole cheese and not the one with holes in it, she suggested.
For me the Swiss can do with their country as they please. If they do not want fellow Europeans to move to Switzerland, they should have the right to limit the number of immigrants entering their country. However, this choice should have consequences. The Swiss should not be able to have it both ways. If they don’t accept the conditions they may not benefit from the large single market with freedom of goods, capital and services.
If they do wish to unilaterally limit the numbers of immigrants they will accept they may wish to think about concessions in other areas they can make to ensure this move is more palatable to the rest of Europe. Free chocolate would work for me!
Many times in our negotiations we impose conditions on our acceptance of terms. 'Course I will clean my room Dad if you give me a lift to town'. 'Certainly the volume will increase if you give me that better price'. The problem is that the other side accept the good and somehow ignore the conditionality attached.
If you let them get away with it, they certainly will.
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