ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann staked out a hard line on EU immigration before meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, insisting it could not be linked to a broader treaty Brussels wants.
In an interview aired by broadcaster SRF before Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin, he also said Swiss plans to curb the influx of European Union citizens by giving local people hiring preference may not require any more EU negotiations.
Switzerland, which is not an EU member, must implement next year the result of a 2014 referendum in which voters demanded quotas on EU workers.
Such limits would violate bilateral treaties that give the Swiss enhanced access to the EU single market, their largest trading partner, in return for citizens’ freedom of movement.
The EU also wants to replace around 120 sector-specific bilateral treaties with a broad new “framework agreement” that would make the Swiss automatically adopt many EU laws.
Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating presidency of his country’s executive Swiss Federal Council this year, said his country will not be pressured into sacrificing sovereignty.
Above all else, Mrs Merkel will hear from me that we are counting on the EU not to force upon us a connection between freedom of movement and a framework agreement
“Above all else, Mrs Merkel will hear from me that we are counting on the EU not to force upon us a connection between freedom of movement and a framework agreement,” he said.
At their long-planned meeting, the president will also inform Merkel about the political state of play in Switzerland.
Last month, the lower house of parliament passed a plan that includes hiring preferences but no quotas for workers already in Switzerland. The upper house is likely to take a similar line.
If so, Schneider-Ammann said the upshot “could be that we are compatible with the EU’s freedom of movement rules already”.
Some European diplomats say any plan to regulate immigration must win the EU’s blessing, especially given its potential effect on Britain’s talks on EU ties after the country quits the bloc.