The bilateral Agreement on the free movement of persons (AFMP) confers upon the citizens of Switzerland and of the member states of the European Union (EU) the right to freely choose their place of employment and residence within the national territories of the contracting parties.
The AFMP establishes basic rules for the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU. This is conditional, however, on possession by the individuals concerned of a valid employment contract, being self-employed, or in the case of their not being in gainful employment, proof of financial independence and full health insurance coverage. The AFMP provides for a phased introduction of the ground rules for the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU. It lays down transitional periods during which immigration can be restricted. The agreement is further extended through the coordination of social security systems and the EU’s system of diploma recognition.
As a supplement to the FMP, job market measures came into force on 1 June 2004 that protect both the Swiss working population and foreign employees sent to Switzerland from efforts to undercut salaries and the working conditions that apply in Switzerland. The measures are intended, among other things, to help counter the influx of foreign service providers that are only independent in name, or through sanctions to ensure compliance with compulsory minimum wages for all persons employed in Switzerland. The efficiency of the flanking measures is being monitored over the last few years, for example in regards to the extension of the AFMP to new member states. New measures are being discussed on a regular basis and are being voted by Swiss authorities in order to ensure appropriate legal instruments.
On 9 February 2014 the Swiss people voted in favor of the popular initiative “Against mass immigration”. The new constitutional text required the Federal Council and Parliament to introduce within three years a new system for an autonomous management in regards to immigration and to safeguard the economy’s interests. On 11 February 2015 the Federal Council adopted a negotiating mandate in order to adapt the AFMP with the EU. On 4 march 2016 the Federal Council submitted draft legislation to the Parliament to manage immigration. Simultaneously intense consultations were led in 2015 and 2016 with the European Commission in order to find common ground.
The Swiss Parliament had to decide on the implementation of article 121a of the Federal Constitution although the consultations had not come to an end. In December 2016, both chambers agreed on an enforcement law of the article 121a compatible with the AFMP. The law was adopted on December 16th 2016. The Federal Council authorised the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), to confirm the ratification of Protocol III (extending the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons to Croatia) to the EU. Therefore, since January 2017, Croatian nationals benefit from the free movement of persons. Nonetheless, they are subject to transitional arrangements.
The draft ordonnance to implement article121a of the Federal Constitution were developed in Switzerland during the first months of 2017 and have been adopted by the Federal Council on June 28th 2017 and then been submitted for consultation. The draft legislation was discussed with the EU during joint committee AFMP on July 3rd 2017. The draft legislation foresees that in economic sectors or regions where the average unemployment rate is of 5 percent or more, the access to the information of new employment opportunities is restricted to persons (Swiss and foreign residents) that are registered at the public service for employment of the Swiss cantons.
The Federal Council activates the safeguard clause as of 1st of June 2017 in order to limit residence permits B EU/EFTA for one year for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.