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Switzerland gets first penalty for immigration vote

Feb 18, 2014 | News

(18 February 2014) – The European Union has postponed negotiations with Switzerland on its participation in multibillion-dollar research and educational schemes, after Berne said it could not sign in its present form an agreement to extend the free movement of people to Croatia, the newest EU member.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has warned that the narrow Swiss vote to restore quotas for migrants from the EU breaches an accord with Brussels and would have “serious consequences” for relations between the wealthy Alpine nation and the EU.

In one immediate consequence, the Commission said it was postponing talks on Swiss participation in both the EU’s €80-billion Horizon 2020 research programme and its €14.7-billion Erasmus+ educational exchange programme. Both schemes cover the period from 2014 to 2020. Under the previous EU research programme, which ended last year, Swiss researchers were awarded €1.8 billion in EU funding for research.

In an interview with Reuters last week, Barroso hinted at more far-reaching consequences from the vote, saying Switzerland could not enjoy all the benefits of the EU, the world’s biggest market, without reciprocal access.

While he did not spell out any specific sanctions, Barroso implied that Swiss people could lose the right to live and work in the EU, and Swiss companies might also face obstacles. The EU has already put on hold talks on a cross-border electricity agreement with Switzerland. (With EurActiv et Reuters)

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