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Swiss lawmakers set no caps on immigration

The Swiss parliament decided to give its citizens the first opportunity at available jobs. This goes around voters' demands for immigration caps and quotas, which would have violated Swiss-EU agreements.

The Swiss parliament passed a bill on Friday that pushed businesses to look for workers already within Switzerland when filling vacant jobs. The vote is seen as an indirect approach to stemming immigration into the country.

Lawmakers have struggled with how to implement a binding  2014 referendum calling for tougher restrictions on immigration. Voters wanted quotas on the number of immigrants entering the country, but such quotas would have violated agreements Switzerland reached with the European Union that allow the free movement of workers.

About one in four people living in Switzerland hold foreign passports. More than 80 percent of those are from other European nations. More than 300,000 people commute to the country from neighboring countries for work. The bill that was passed Friday extends free movement to the EU's newest member, Croatia.

The largest party in Swiss parliament, the People's Party (SVP), felt the law did not go far enough and considered another referendum for tougher anti-immigration laws that are more in line with the original referendum. Members of the SVP held up signs that read "breach of the constitution" and "mass immigration continues." The new law is a "capitulation to the EU and a declaration of submission that humiliates the Swiss people," said Adrian Amstutz, the parliamentary leader of the SVP.

The European Commission cautiously welcomed the decision Friday and plans to further analyze the law in coming days. "The law appears to go in the right direction," said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

kbd/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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