Swiss migration control plan gains ground
A plan by Swiss right-wing populists to reimpose immigration quotas for EU citizens has won support ahead of a referendum, raising the prospect of a clash with Brussels, a poll showed Wednesday.
A total of 43 percent of those surveyed said they backed the "Stop Mass Immigration" measure which goes to a vote on February 9, according to the survey released by public broadcaster SRG.
That marked a major gain on the 37 percent support shown in a poll released just two weeks ago.
The survey was commissioned from the GfS Bern public opinion institute, which found that opposition to the measure had dropped by five points to 50 percent.
The role of undecided voters is often a key factor in Swiss referendums, which are the bedrock of the country's system of direct democracy.
GfS found that seven percent had yet to make up their minds on how to cast their ballot, one point down from the previous survey.
The proposal seeks a revival of quotas for European Union citizens that were dropped in 2007 by Switzerland, which is not in the 28-nation bloc but has tight economic ties with it.
Passing it would raise the spectre of a clash with the EU because it sets a three-year deadline to renegotiate the rules, and senior Brussels officials have warned that Switzerland cannot expect an easy ride.
It would also mean a return to red tape requiring Swiss firms to prove they have failed to find a local employee before being allowed to recruit abroad.
The proposal is the brainchild of the Swiss People's Party, the largest single force in parliament, which says that since 2007, Switzerland has lost the power to control its immigration rules.
It charges that the arrival of 80,000 new residents per year has been an economic and social disaster, undercutting local workers, driving up rents and land prices, and overburdening the health, education and transport systems.
Switzerland's cross-party government, the majority of parliament and the national industry, farming and healthcare umbrella groups reject the plan, saying that foreign workers are crucial to the economic fortunes of one of the world's wealthiest nations.
Almost a quarter of the eight million residents of Switzerland last year were not Swiss, according to official data.
The highest numbers of recent immigrants come from EU nations Portugal, Germany, Italy and France.
© 2014 AFP