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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Putting the Swiss Vote in Context: UK and Switzerland ready to take action on EU migrants - Germany in the middle?

The big news on immigration this week was a Swiss vote to curb migration:

Swiss Voters Narrowly Approve Curbs on Immigration 

The vote was immediately denounced by the EU and some member countries, and could threaten Switzerland's relationship with the EU.  Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, the country has signed onto various treaties related to trade and the free movement of labor, that will be impacted by the new law. However, this vote needs to be put in a broader context.  In the past, the focus of most EU member states was on controlling immigrants from outside of the EU. The boatloads of refugees landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa was a symbol of illegal immigration and refugee flows that were a growing concern.  However, there has also been a growing concern about immigration from other EU member states, particular those with lower incomes and welfare benefits

Swiss immigration vote shows loss of trust in business elite: minister

The BBC looks at concerns raised by the vote:

EU neighbours regret Swiss vote for immigration quotas

On January 1, 2014, Romania and Bulgaria gained the right of free movement of labor within the EU.  In advance of this development, UK Prime Minister David Cameron laid out his concerns regarding immigration from those countries, and changes his government would make to the welfare system.  However, critics charged that the changes would have little practical effect, and even the government focused on the idea that they would "send a message"

EU migration: David Cameron says his welfare changes 'send a message' to Romania and Bulgaria. Is that enough?

Germany will block David Cameron's attempt to restrict immigration by rewriting the EU treaty's right to free movement

More recently Cameron has modified his tone as an immigration bill works its way through Parliament:

David Cameron says EU immigration at 'reasonable level' 

Although there have been calls from conservative politicians in Germany to pursue similar measures, the German government has been critical of Cameron's attempts to pursue changes to free movement:

German foreign minister: Cameron 'damaging Europe' with call for immigration limits

German minister dismisses fears of immigration from eastern Europe


EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor has also been critical of Cameron:

EU tells Britain: Don't pander to prejudice on immigration

One of the ironies of the current situation is that the unease of foreigners is not limited to Bulgarians and Romanians:

Germans in Switzerland uncertain of future

Meanwhile, Britain's Immigration Minister resigned after revealing that his housekeeper was an undocumented immigrant.
 
 
 

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