The Swiss decided last week to re-impose quotas on the number of people from Eastern Europe who are allowed to work in Switzerland.
Switzerland is part of the EU schengen zone, but not a member of the European Union. This means (in theory) that people within the Schengen zone could travel to Switzerland without the need for a visa. European Union members living in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will now need to apply for a visa in order to be able to live and work in Switzerland.
The Swiss decided that they needed to do this in order to limit the growing number of immigrants from those countries. A huge number (7,000 !) since visa free travel was introduced have traveled to Switzerland over the last three years to look for work. (To put it in perspective, a similar sized country such as Holland has seen a much bigger influx.) The European Union wasn’t very happy about this decision, but can’t do much about it as the Swiss used a get out clause to impose this.
The move is rather typical for what is happening all over Europe. Countries are veering to the right and calls to close borders are getting louder. (France/Germany last week) The fact that the number of East European immigrants in Switzerland are rather limited (7,000 out of 65,000) forced the Christian Democrat Peoples Party to admit that it was a symbolic move. It is used for internal political purposes rather than to ‘protect’ the Swiss labour market.
The Swiss Farmers Union has already complained about this as they fear their production costs would sky rocket without the use of East European labourers. They’re now talking about changing the annual permits to shorter term visas so that farmers can still hire farm labourers. It might be a short term exercise anyway as the get out clause expires in 2014.
Politicians huh! They’ll do anything to win votes……..