connect, grow & thrive.

In the news – a real solution to the immigration issues?

On the 4th of February 2014 the people voted (by a very narrow marging) to put a stop to the free movement of people from the EU in Switzerland. The Government had until February 2017 to find a way of putting this into place. This, of course, turned out to be a major headache because putting quotas back in place would break the laws of the Schengen Agreement and would force Switzerland out of the EU. Yesterday the parliament voted what some regard as quite an elegant solution, basically an added layer of protectionism for Swiss people. In other words should there be a risk of having too many foreigners coming into the work market in a given year then, before a company can employ a foreigner, they have to first interview several Swiss candidates (and at least several people who are unemployed and actively looking for work). Family run companies and companies which can prove that the foreign person worked for them previously are exempt. This has been nicknamed the “Inland priority light” solution.

The EU says that they are happy with this solution as it doesn’t prevent anyone EU citizen from coming to Switzerland nor break any of the rules laid out in the Schengen agreement.

The backlash from the right wing political segment was immediate with the AUNS (Action for a neutral Switzerland) party deciding to launch a new referendum calling for a complete end to the freedom of movement for EU citizens. “We don’t want Switzerland to become an EU colony” was their argument, the SVP are backing them.

Switzerland also has allowed Croatians as of January 1 2017  the right to come and work in Switzerland. This in exchange for allowing Swiss students to join the EU research programme Horizon 2020. But Swiss students are still not allow to join in the Erasmus+ and Creative Europe. This just shows how, in the end, Switzerland still has to fight on every single issue in their transactions with the EU.

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Livingin organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.