26 April 2013
Switzerland is to restrict immigration from European Union member states. It will introduce new quotas and limit long-term work permits available to EU citizens. Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, some EU officials have already criticised the move.
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Switzerland's high salaries, low unemployment, and stable currency are a magnet to Eurozone countries. Since the Swiss agreed to free movement of people, immigration from EU members has risen sharply, especially from Spain and Portugal, where unemployment is at crisis levels.
In Switzerland, there is tension. The right wing People's Party claims Swiss jobseekers are losing out; the Green Party says immigration is putting too much pressure on housing and public transport. Now the Swiss government has called a halt: being outside the EU means Switzerland has some flexibility, and from next month permanent work permits for EU citizens will be strictly limited.
Brussels has reacted angrily: EU officials have always told Switzerland it cannot cherry pick only those parts of European policy it likes best. Now, it's possible other deals the Swiss really need with Europe, on trade perhaps, could be in danger. Meanwhile, sceptical members of the European Union, like Britain, where many would like a less rigid relationship with the EU, will be watching Switzerland's move with interest.
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steady, not likely to change
- Eurozone countries
sixteen nations which use the Euro as their currency
the permanent movement of non-native people into a country
- at crisis levels
at a point where big problems could happen
- called a halt
put a stop to it
- work permits
written certificates allowing someone to work in a country
- cherry pick
here: choose only the things that it likes
- sceptical (US: skeptical)
lacking trust or confidence in something
fixed, not flexible