Federal Councillor Sommaruga informs EU about new constitutional provisions on immigration

Press Release, The Federal Council, 03.03.2014

Bern. Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), travelled to Brussels on Monday to inform the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) about the implementation of Switzerland's new constitutional provisions on immigration. She explained that voters in Switzerland had come out in favour of a change of system involving quotas. Switzerland has three years in which to implement the provisions and seek a solution with the EU. The agreement on the free movement of persons will be applied in full until that time.

Federal Councillor Sommaruga attended the Mixed Committee session of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council. She also took the opportunity to hold a series of bilateral meetings with her counterparts from Croatia, Italy and France, and from Greece, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Mrs Sommaruga stressed that even after the new system comes into effect, workers from the EU will be able to come to Switzerland, although the number of foreign nationals will be managed on a quota system.

Mrs Sommaruga reiterated that the new constitutional provisions prevent Switzerland from signing the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia in its current form. Switzerland will seek a solution with Croatia and the EU that avoids discriminating against Croatia.

The Federal Council will draw up a concept for implementing the new constitutional provisions by the end of June and submit a draft law for consultation by the end of the year. At the same time, it will hold exploratory talks with the EU, with a view to negotiating the various unresolved issues. Mrs Sommaruga stressed that relations with the EU and its member states are important to Switzerland. Therefore every effort will be made to address all outstanding issues and seek common solutions in close consultation.

Further topics in the Mixed Committee

The Mixed Committee also discussed the refugee situation in the Mediterranean. In response to the tragedy on Lampedusa in October of last year, the European Commission set up a task force to introduce measures to improve the situation for refugees in the Mediterranean.

Furthermore, the JHA Council expressed its concern at the ongoing political and humanitarian situation in Syria and discussed the consequences f the region.

In addition, ministers discussed ways of improving cooperation with countries of origin on the subject of returns and of encouraging voluntary return. The ministers agreed that a common approach is necessary. Federal Councillor Sommaruga cited Switzerland's practice of systematically examining whether it is possible and feasible, in the interests of ensuring a coherent and effective policy, to connect cooperation on migrant return with other foreign policy aspects.

Revision of data protection law

At their meeting in Brussels, the EU's justice and home affairs ministers also discussed the implementation of the financial framework for the period 2014-2020 on home affairs and the revision of data protection law in the EU. Members states were informed about progress on legislative projects in the areas of asylum and migration and internal security and debated a draft directive on the protection of individuals in the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties.

Federal Councillor Sommaruga was accompanied on her visit to the JHA Council in Brussels by Cantonal Councillor Beat Villiger, vice-president of the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Justice and Police.

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