EU edges closer to free movement solution with Switzerland: source
The European Union edged closer Tuesday to resolving a dispute over Swiss immigration restrictions after Britain was given extra time to review EU proposals, an EU diplomatic source said.
Talks earlier this month looked set to settle the issue but British officials asked for additional time so ministers in London could review the EU text being negotiated.
Britain “will now go along with the EU position,” the diplomatic source assured.
A Swiss referendum in February approved the introduction of immigration quotas, putting in doubt a whole range of agreements with the EU based on a commitment to free movement of people.
Switzerland said the vote specifically meant it could not conclude a protocol extending an EU-Swiss accord on free movement valid for 27 EU member states to newest member Croatia, which joined in 2013.
In response, the EU suspended talks on a general mandate for the European Commission to negotiate an umbrella agreement between the EU and Switzerland, and halted Swiss participation in EU research and education programmes.
The EU said after the referendum vote that while it could not compromise on the principle of freedom it would allow Switzerland time to find a solution.
Talks to try to resolve the row have been taking place at expert level since then, with Switzerland offering to honour the rights of EU citizens currently working in the country under a special protocol.
The diplomatic source said the 28 EU member state representatives will take up the text when they meet Wednesday.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but counts the bloc as its main trading partner and its economy is closely linked with European and global markets.