Swiss to Decide on Free Movement of Labor With EU | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.02.2009
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Swiss to Decide on Free Movement of Labor With EU

The Swiss will head to the polls on Sunday to vote in a referendum on free movement and access for EU citizens to their labor market, and will have to decide whether to open up their borders to Romania and Bulgaria.

Swiss flag waving against the backdrop of the Alps

The Swiss will decide whether they want to keep their borders open

The latest polls indicated that the government-backed motion will likely pass and voters will extend the existing deal with 25 European states and allow in the two new EU members, but only by a slim margin.

The vote comes in the midst of the global economic crisis, which has hit Switzerland, though not nearly as hard as other European nations. Unemployment has risen, but is still very low in comparison to most other countries, and stands at just over 3 percent.

The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) forced the referendum after objecting to the extension of free movement to the two additional countries, claiming it would lead to job losses for Swiss workers, higher taxes and to a rise in crime.

Controversial imagery

People wait for the bus in front of an election poster of the swiss right wing party SVP / UDC showing a white sheep kicking a black sheep in front of a swiss flag

The right-wing SVP takes a hardline stance on immigration

The SVP, infamous for using controversial imagery to project their ideas, produced posters depicting three aggressive looking black crows pecking away at a map of Switzerland. A previous campaign showed three white sheep kicking a black one out of the country.

If the right wing campaign does succeed, the implications would extend far beyond Switzerland's relationship with the two former communist countries.

The free movement agreement with the EU is linked to six other treaties, including ones on trade and transport, meaning Swiss exporters would find it more difficult to get their goods into European markets.

European labor

Swiss businesses, some heavily reliant on European labor, would also find themselves in a panic, as they would no longer be able to keep the employees with ease and limited restrictions like they have in recent years. Some have said they might have to move their operations outside of the Alpine country.

That would likely not bode well for the economy, particularly in times of economic crisis.

Moreover, EU observers have speculated that Brussels would suspend the Schengen agreement with Switzerland, which it only just joined, if voters chose to keep out the two newest members.

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