Switzerland drew strong criticism from European officials on Wednesday after it said it would reimpose quotas on workers from central and eastern Europe, cutting the number of permits granted annually by two thirds.
“This measure is neither economically justified by the labor market situation nor by the number of EU citizens seeking residence in Switzerland,” Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said, in a strongly worded criticism of the move.
Switzerland, which has kept unemployment at a low 3 percent despite recent economic turbulence, has seen a big influx in immigrant workers from the EU in recent years.
The Swiss cabinet said it had decided to invoke a “safeguard clause” in its agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, reimposing quotas that were abolished a year ago for citizens from central and eastern Europe.
The government said the 1.1 million EU citizens in the country of 7.9 million boosted the economy, but the rate of immigration was raising concerns over issues of integration and compliance with minimum wage and working conditions.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party has blamed immigration for pushing up rents, overcrowding on public transport and erosion of cultural values. The party is seeking to amend the constitution to set annual quotas on permits granted to foreigners.