Nearly three-quarters of Swiss voters preliminarily rejected a proposal Nov. 30 initiated by an environmental group to reduce Switzerland’s annual immigration to 0.2 percent of the population, according to a New York Times news report. Preliminary results were released Nov. 30 by Switzerland’s federal office for statistics.
A broad coalition of business and union leaders had lobbied against the suggested quota on new immigrants amid fears that it would harm Switzerland’s economy and ties to the European Union (EU). Voters also rejected a proposal to require the country’s central bank, the Swiss National Bank, to hold 20 percent of its reserves in gold and a third referendum to end tax breaks for wealthy foreigners in Switzerland.
The New York Times reported that all of the proposals had been rejected by the country’s influential business leaders, who are struggling to salvage Swiss relations with the EU after voters in February narrowly supported a movement to reintroduce restrictions on the number of foreigners who are allowed to live and work in the country.
The decision has thrown into question Switzerland’s participation in the freedom-of-movement treaties it had signed with the bloc, prompting a swift response from Brussels, which halted an exchange program for university students and suspended talks on linking Swiss utilities to the EU energy market.
Fears of so-called welfare refugees are rising across the Europe as the wealthier countries worry that freedom-of-movement laws are threatening their welfare systems. Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that Germany was allowed to deny unemployment payments to a Romanian woman who had never sought work in the country.
The New York Times reported that the Ecopop environmental group blamed the overwhelming oppositional propaganda aimed against their proposal for its defeat on Nov. 30.