Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to limit the free movement of people and immigration from the European Union.
Public broadcaster SRF projected that 63% of voters had voted against the motion, versus 37% who turned out in support.
Sunday’s referendum had been initiated by the populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which said that current regulations allow for an average of 75,000 EU citizens per year to enter, leading to overpopulation, rising housing costs and a strained welfare system.
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The SVP, which has built its platform on condemning EU influence within Switzerland, has warned that the country is facing “uncontrolled and excessive immigration.”
The party called for the free movement of people between Switzerland and EU countries to be scrapped.
The initiative, voted on as part of the country’s system of direct democracy, had called for Switzerland to revise its constitution to ensure it can autonomously decide on immigration policy.
The move, dubbed Swexit, saw declining support ahead of the vote. The most recent survey showed 65% of those questioned opposed the move to scrap the agreement.
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Critics of the initiative argued that the move would exacerbate a shortage of skilled workers and would endanger Switzerland’s wealth.
Roughly 1.4 million EU citizens live in the country of about 8.2 million, while around 500,000 Swiss live in EU countries.
Once the result is confirmed, the government will likely push forward talks with the EU on a framework agreement to regulate this and other bilateral issues.
Conservatives fear that a deal would gradually subject the country to legislation from Brussels.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of the bloc’s Single Market through several bilateral treaties, which allow for the free movement of people between the country and the 27 member states.
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lc/mm (AP, dpa, AFP)