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
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
In a raid on a luxury apartment complex, agents caught up with a French-Algerian man they accuse of bringing back terror to Europe.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT