Friday, 26 April 2013
The anti-immigration class across Europe has found many new adherents as of late, especially in the most economically devastated countries, like Greece and Italy. But now these Europeans might themselves become the unwelcome migrants, at least in Switzerland.
As I happened to be standing in the most intolerable immigration line that I’ve ever faced – more on that later – I read on my Twitter account that the Swiss government on Wednesday announced a new policy to cap residence permits for all of Western Europe. Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but joined the Schengen bloc that allows freedom of movement of people across European borders, says that it is being overwhelmed by arrivals from across the continent, to the tune of 80,000 people each year.
So it is invoking a “safeguard clause” it negotiated during the 1999 Schengen treaty talk, which it already implemented for eight Central and Eastern European states. Now, as of May 1, residence permits for the citizens of 17 older EU states, from Germany to Spain, will be capped at 53,700 per year.
According to the EU Observer, the Swiss said that the million-plus EU residents who live in the country have “had a positive impact … in particular in terms of consumer spending and on the construction industry,” but that restrictions are “needed to make immigration more acceptable to society.”
The move drew immediate criticism from Brussels. ”The measures disregard the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU,” Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement.