EU warns Switzerland on immigration referendum

Feb. 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM   |   Comments

BRUSSELS, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A Swiss move to set quotas on immigration is likely to disrupt its relationship with the European Union, EU officials warn.

A referendum capping immigration in Switzerland passed Sunday by a narrow margin. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Monday that could mean an end to Switzerland's special relationship with the EU, its largest trading partner, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"One can't have, on one hand, a privileged access to the internal market of the European Union and on the other hand, dilute the free movement of people. The two are linked," Asselborn said.

Swiss voters approved a mandate for the government to renegotiate its agreement for free movement from EU countries to Switzerland. EU leaders say that is not on the table.

"Cherry-picking from its relationship with the EU isn't a durable strategy for dealing with Europe," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Immigration has become a contentious issue in many European countries. It has fueled the rise of nationalist parties like the United Kingdom Independence Party in Britain and the Front National in France.

UKIP head Nigel Farage congratulated the Swiss on the vote, saying a similar measure in Britain would pass, "but by a landslide."

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