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Safeguard clause Swiss to remove limits on workers from Romania and Bulgaria

Alain Berset

Swiss president Alain Berset (left) met Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest on November 1. 


A safeguard clause that limits the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in Switzerland to 1,000 a year will be lifted in June 2019. 

Swiss president Alain Berset re-iterated the decision, taken earlier this year, during an official visit to Romania on Thursday. A government spokesperson confirmed to on Friday that Romanians and Bulgarians will be able to enjoy full freedom of movement from June 1 of next year. 

The safeguard clause for the two countries was first activated by Switzerland in 2017 and renewed again this year until May 31, 2019. The measure applies to those with an employment contract in Switzerland that is valid for more than one year, as well as for the self-employed. 

Swiss authorities activated the clause because net migration from Romania and Bulgaria doubled to 3,300 in 2016, the year when freedom of movement for their citizens entered into force. This went against a general trend of declining immigration from the European Union, allowing Switzerland to exercise the safeguard clause option. Under the terms of a 1999 accord with the EU, Switzerland has the right to invoke the safeguard clause, which caps immigration for a limited time. However, the clause can only be invoked until 2019. 

Switzerland first activated such a safeguard clause – a controversial instrument in its complex dealings with the EU – in 2012, to limit the number of citizens arriving from certain new-member countries who joined the EU in 2004. 

The Alpine nation also chose to extend the clause to all EU member states the following year but was sharply rebuked by Brussels. Since then, the limits cannot be applied to the 17 “original” member states of the EU – those who joined prior to 2004.

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