Swiss slap quota on East European immigrants
Rahvusvahelised uudised 24 Apr 2012  EWR
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(From Transitions Online weekly round-up Around the Bloc)
The European Union’s foreign policy chief and the Visegrad Four group have strongly criticized Switzerland’s move to restrict immigration from the newest EU members.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, said the Swiss government’s 18 April decision breached the principle of free movement of people in the Schengen space. Switzerland joined the border-free zone in 2009, though it is not a member of the EU.

“This measure is neither economically justified by the labor market situation nor by the number of EU citizens seeking residence in Switzerland,” Ashton said in a statement.

The Swiss cabinet blamed rising immigrant numbers for its decision to invoke a safeguard clause in its agreement with the EU, allowing it to reimpose quotas on immigration by citizens of the Visegrad group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It set a limit of 2,000 permits for all eight countries for the year beginning 1 May, compared with 6,000 permits granted in the last year.

Visegrad ministers expressed “deep regret” at the decision.

“We deplore this measure firstly because the Swiss authorities differentiate among EU member states by singling out selected countries – even though some of our states did not fulfill migrant worker quotas – and, secondly, because we see this as a purely political decision, with our countries representing only 10 percent of the EU migrant workers in Switzerland,” the Visegrad countries said in a statement.

One in seven of Switzerland’s residents is a citizen of the EU.

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