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The new constitutional provisions require that residence permits for foreign nationals be restricted using quantitative limits and quotas. These limits and quotas will apply to all permits covered by legislation on foreign nationals, including cross-border commuters and asylum seekers, and must be geared towards Switzerland's overall economic interests. Businesses must give Swiss nationals priority when hiring staff.
The new constitutional text does not specify how high these quotas should be, nor does it specify who should set and allocate them and according to what criteria. These details now need to be defined at the legislative level. The new constitutional provisions stipulate that the Federal Council and parliament have three years to implement the new system.
Pivotal decision with far-reaching consequences
The Federal Council interprets the outcome of this referendum as a reflection of unease with regard to population growth in recent years. Speaking in front of the media on Sunday, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, described the outcome as a pivotal decision with far-reaching consequences. The constitutional text is formulated in a very open manner. The Federal Council will submit a proposal on its implementation to parliament as soon as possible. As the new constitutional text runs contrary to the agreement on the free movement of persons, the Federal Council will also enter into discussion with the relevant bodies of the EU and its member states, in order to discuss the next steps and open negotiations. The constitutional provisions also allow a period of three years for these negotiations.
The President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, explained on Sunday that the Federal Council will explore ways in which Switzerland's relations with the EU can be put on a new footing. At the same time, however, the president stressed that the agreement on the free movement of persons and the other bilateral agreements will remain in place until a new legal status has been established. The Federal Council will now analyse what consequences the change of direction resulting from today's decision will have on Switzerland's European policy.