Skip to main content

Swiss voters narrowly approve immigration limits

By Elwyn Lopez, CNN
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
A man walks past posters from the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party ahead of Sunday's referendum
A man walks past posters from the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party ahead of Sunday's referendum
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vote reflects "unease with regard to population growth," Swiss government says
  • Swiss Federal Council warned limits would make it harder for businesses to find workers
  • Foreigners make up a fourth of Switzerland's workforce and 20% of its population
  • EU: It's against "free circulation of people between the European Union and Switzerland"

(CNN) -- Swiss voters narrowly approved a referendum to place new limits on foreigners living and working in Switzerland.

The country's Federal Council, which officially opposed the constitutional change, called the vote "a reflection of unease with regard to population growth in recent years."

The council had warned that passage would make it harder for Swiss businesses to find workers and would harm relations with the European Union.

Foreign workers from the EU have been allowed to freely commute from France and other countries into Switzerland to work, while there have been few restrictions on foreign nationals moving into the country to live.

Switzerland, which is not a part of the European Union, will not have to renegotiate agreements with the EU, the Federal Council said.

The European Commission issued a statement Sunday expressing "regrets" about the passage of the immigration quotas. "That goes against the principle of free circulation of people between the European Union and Switzerland," it said. "The European Union will examine the implications of this initiative with all relations between the European Union and Switzerland."

Foreigners make up about a fourth of Switzerland's workforce and 20% of its population. The immigrant community is dominated by Albanians, Bosnians and Turks, though most were denied a vote in Sunday's referendum because of the difficulty of gaining Swiss citizenship.

"The new constitutional provisions require that residence permits for foreign nationals be restricted using quantitative limits and quotas," the Swiss government statement said. "These limits and quotas will apply to all permits covered by legislation on foreign nationals, including cross-border commuters and asylum seekers, and must be geared towards Switzerland's overall economic interests. Businesses must give Swiss nationals priority when hiring staff."

Before the vote, the Federal Council issued a statement saying the foreign workers "make a significant contribution to Switzerland's prosperity. The Swiss economy has relied on foreign workers for decades. Manufacturing, construction, health care, academia and research, gastronomy and agriculture are dependent on workers from abroad."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT