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Swiss Government Weighs Next Steps in Immigration Reform

Map of Elections Results according to Canton
Map of Elections Results according to Canton. Source: Swiss Federal Statistics Office

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s government is evaluation how to proceed with immigration reform after voters approved quotas for newcomers.

To implement the Feb. 9 “yes” vote on a referendum to “stop mass immigration,” the government plans to draw up an implementation plan by June and present a draft law by the end of this year. Simultaneously, it will hold talks with the European Union, it said today.

Switzerland’s vote to impose quotas on immigrants, most of whom come from the neighboring EU, has run afoul with officials in Brussels and other European capitals because it is contrary to the free movement of persons pact to which Switzerland previously agreed. That pact is part of a bigger agreement with the EU, which also includes trade and market access. It features a “guillotine” clause that nullifies all parts if one falls.

“We know that if we decide on a quota system there’s the risk of the guillotine clause coming into effect,” President Didier Burkhalter said at a press conference in Bern today. “The situation is difficult.”

The 28-member bloc is the biggest destination for Swiss exports, causing companies to warn that voting to curb immigration would damage the economy.

Burkhalter will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next week. “I’d like to do some other trips,” he said, without naming any further destinations.

The government also said it would “clarify whether the agreement to extend the freedom of movement to Croatia should form part of a renegotiation” or should be settled in advance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Bosley in Zurich at cbosley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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