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Voters In Switzerland Reject Immigration Cap

On Sunday, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have drastically reduced the number of foreigners seeking to live and work in Switzerland.

About three-quarters of voters rejected the proposal, put forward by an environmental group, to reduce the country’s annual immigration to 0.2% of the population, according to preliminary results.

A coalition of business and union leaders lobbied against the proposed quote on new immigrants amid fears that it would hurt Switzerland’s economy as well as its ties to the European Union, the New York Times reported. Supporters of the measure argued it would have reduced pressure on Switzerland’s resources.

Voters also rejected a proposal to require Switzerland’s central bank, the Swiss National Bank, to hold 20% of its reserves in gold, and a third referendum to end tax breaks for wealthy foreigners in the country.

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy allows citizens to force a referendum if they get enough signatures of support. The country voted in February to re-introduce immigration quotes, which would in effect being opting out of a EU free movement agreement. The government still has to implement that referendum, the BBC reported.

The referendums are part of many recent initiatives under the direct democracy that have threatened to undermine Switzerland’s reputation for stability. They also reflect a growing public view that the country is under attack from foreign workers, who are eroding its Alpine culture, Reuters reported.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Reto Foellmi” author_title=”Professor of International Economics at the University of St. Gallen”]

The result of both today’s gold and immigration referenda show that the Swiss public want to pursue a coherent international economic policy and do not want to create new tensions with their EU neighbors.


The immigration measure was called the Ecopop measure, after Switzerland’s 40-year-old Ecopop movement that attempts to link environmental protection with population control.

Switzerland’s population has increased by about one million over the last 20 years and is now 8.2 million. About 23% of residents are foreign nationals, most from EU states. In 2013, net immigration was at 81,000.

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