Switzerland–EU: Consultations on free movement of persons to intensify

Press Release, FDJP, 21.12.2015

Berne. President Simonetta Sommaruga met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the Council Jean Asselborn for a working meeting in Brussels on Monday. The three agreed to continue and intensify consultations on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Both sides aim to reach a mutually acceptable solution that complies with both the Swiss Constitution and the Agreement on Free Movement.

2015-12-21
Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President, Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Jean Asselborn, President of the European Council (Photo: FDJP)

The desired solution should be based on an interpretation of the current Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, must make it possible to extend the Agreement to include Croatia and must also meet the requirements set out in the Swiss Constitution. A unilateral safeguard clause would be disadvantageous both to Switzerland and the European Union. All three have confirmed that they also want to continue talks on the institutional questions and achieve progress on other outstanding issues at the appropriate time.

The fact the consultations have now been intensified shows that the political will to find a solution is there, said Simonetta Sommaruga after the meeting, however there has been no breakthrough as yet and much work remains to be done on all sides.

Joint interpretation of the Agreement

The parties now aim to achieve a solution based on Article 14 paragraph 2 of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Under this article, in the event of serious economic or social difficulties, at the request of either contracting party, the Joint Committee may take appropriate measures to remedy the situation.

In order to comply with the deadlines laid down in the Swiss Constitution, the Federal Council will submit a draft law implementing the new constitutional provision to Parliament at the beginning of March 2016. If an agreement cannot be reached with the EU, Switzerland plans to act unilaterally to introduce a safeguard clause in the Foreign Nationals Act.

On 9 February 2014, Swiss voters approved an amendment to the Constitution which aims to give Switzerland more control over immigration. Since then, the Federal Council and the European Union have been seeking a solution that takes account of both the wishes of the Swiss people and the terms of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, and which develops and reinforces Swiss-EU bilateral relations. On 7 July 2014, Switzerland filed a request for a review, which the EU declined in a letter dated 24 July 2014. On 18 October 2014, the Federal Council approved a mandate for negotiations. In February 2015, following a meeting in Brussels, talks began again. Since then, ten rounds of consultations have been held.

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