Swiss conservatives push for limits on EU job seekers | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.12.2009
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Swiss conservatives push for limits on EU job seekers

First, the Swiss shocked the country's Muslim minority with a vote to ban new minarets. Now, Swiss conservatives are calling for limits on the number of job-seekers from EU nations, including workers from Germany.

Last month, a majority of Swiss approved a referendum that bans the construction of minarets. The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), Switzerland's biggest party, was the driving force behind the referendum, along with the conservative Federal Democratic Union.

Yet conservatives in Switzerland haven't stopped there. They are pushing the government to cancel an agreement signed two years ago with Brussels that gives people from EU countries freedom of movement and residency in Switzerland, which is not a member of the 27-nation bloc. The accord has opened up the country's jobs market to foreigners, many of them from Germany.

Eric Stauffer from influential conservative protest movement MCG in Geneva says the job market in Switzerland is not balanced.

"More and more Geneva residents, Swiss residents, can't find a job," Stauffer says. "We as Swiss citizens have no means at all to fight this European competition."

Fighting freedom of movement

The Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland has repeatedly urged the Swiss government to take advantage of a clause in the accord that allows for limits to be imposed if the number of EU job-seekers becomes too great.

Last week, the government announced that it would review the clause, but parliamentarian Yves Nidegger, from the conservative Swiss People's Party, says it's too late.

"Nothing was done when it was still early enough to use the so-called valve-clause," he says.

A minaret in Zurich

Swiss conservatives recently succeeded in banning minaret construction in the country

"Now the situation has worsened and it's time to say no to the freedom of movement agreement."

Business favors open borders

There are more foreign workers currently moving to Switzerland than those leaving the country but this year's figures are still below that of previous years. Swiss business associations have also spoken out in favor of keeping the borders open for job-seekers from the European Union.

The country's Social Democrats have dismissed the current discussion on freedom of movement and have instead called for the introduction of a minimum wage to avoid the danger of employing low-cost workers from EU countries.

Author: Pascal Lechler (ca/db)
Editor: Trinity Hartman

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