Swiss government proposes draft law to curb immigration from EU

ZURICH (REUTERS) - The Swiss government on Wednesday proposed a draft law to limit immigration following a referendum but said it was seeking talks with the European Union in order not to violate bilateral treaties including on the free movement of people.

A year ago, the Swiss voted to impose quotas on immigration, which could mean tearing up treaties between the EU and Switzerland including on the free movement of labour.

The referendum, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), was strongly opposed by the government as well as Swiss banks, drugmakers and other industries that rely heavily on skilled workers from the EU.

The vote in favour handed the government the problem of how to manage immigration through quotas without angering Brussels, which has said any curb on the influx of EU workers would violate treaties that cover a range of issues including economic and technological cooperation, agricultural trade, aviation and road and rail traffic.

The government plans to set annual limits for the number of people allowed to move to Switzerland, President Simonetta Sommaruga said, without giving details.

Employers will be required to favour Swiss nationals when hiring new staff, according to the draft, although there should be exceptions in certain jobs that have proved difficult to fill.

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