The conservative right Swiss People’s Party president said on Wednesday that enough signatures had been collected for an initiative to cancel the free movement of people agreement between Switzerland and the European Union (EU).
The party had already collected some 125,000 signatures, said Albert Rösti in an interview with German-language newspaper Blick.
Supporters of an initiative in Switzerland need to gather and validate at least 100,000 signatures within 18 months for the issue to come to a national vote.
The party started the signature collection process in January.
The signatures will still need to be validated, “but we can already say that the initiative will go ahead”, Rösti said.
He was surprised himself how quickly the party had collected the signatures.
“The initiative has turned out to be an immediate success”, he said, adding that Swiss people’s concern about job security is enormous.
A disproportionate number of signatures came from Swiss border regions such as Ticino, Geneva or Basel city, said Rösti. All are cantons with high levels of cross-border workers.
The conservative politician does not believe that the initiative threatens Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU, since it only concerns the free movement of people.
It is in the EU’s own interest to maintain its other bilateral agreements with Switzerland and solutions could be found for these, according to Rösti.
The Swiss People’s Party believes that the free movement of persons is responsible for putting pressure on wages and problems among the older work force in the Swiss labour market.
“Young and inexpensive workers are pouring into our country”, said Rösti, something that he said is detrimental to the country’s prosperity in the long run.
The economic consequences of the free movement of people is more important than the short-term profit interests of individual companies, he concluded.