Voters will not have the final say on a decision by the Swiss parliament about implementing controversial immigration curbs for European Union citizens.
An alliance of committees on Friday handed in about 13,000 signatures – short of the 50,000 signatures needed to challenge a parliamentary compromise adopted last December.
A leading member of the group, Let the People decide, said the campaign over the past 100 days had been difficult because of the “limited funds and staff resources”.
He said added that the failure to win sufficient support for a referendum could be understood as approval of the parliamentary refusal to enforce immigration curbs to the letter. Instead, parliament decided to introduce a preferential status for Swiss residents on the labour market.
Rightwing opponents have described the parliamentary decision as a sham and a constitutional breach because voters in 2014 approved immigration quotas. The government for its part argued it was not possible to introduce the quotas without jeopardising major accords with the EU – Switzerland’s main trading partner.
However, the conundrum about the anti-immigration initiative is unlikely to be over soon.
A people’s initiative aimed at revoking the immigration curbs is still pending and the government is due to present its counter-proposal later this month.
Conservative groups have also threatened to launch new proposals to suspend a key agreement on the free movement of people, gradually implemented since 2002.
Negotiations between non-EU member Switzerland and the 28-nation bloc were frozen for more than three years following voters’ narrow approval of a proposal by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens.
Switzerland and the EU have concluded about 120 bilateral agreements on a wide range of issues since the 1970s.
Earlier this week, both sides announced technical discussions would resume on a number of issues, including a possible deal on a framework agreement and the removal of technical barriers to trade.
swissinfo.ch with agencies/urs