Swiss Vote to Curb Immigration Causes Alarm in Italian Border Communities

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 05:31

Last Sunday, Swiss citizens voted in a referendum to impose caps on immigrants, including people from the European Union. 50.4% of voters supported the referendum, causing alarm in Italian border communities, where 5,000 people commute to Switzerland every day to work.

"This goes against the principle of free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland," the European Commission said in a note. “The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole.”

Roughly a quarter of the country's eight million people is foreign-born - 290,000 of them are from Italy.

Switzerland is not a EU member, but is firmly integrated with the EU: it is a member of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, and a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

"The impact is very worrying, both with respect to Italy and to other agreements with the European Union," said Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.

In Italy and throughout Europe, the vote is expected to boost anti-EU parties ahead of the European Parliament elections in May, where such parties are expected to win by a wide margin.