Lower house committee says no to starting Schengen safeguard clause

BERN, SWITZERLAND – Switzerland insisted on a safeguard clause, when the Bilateral Agreement on the FMP (free movement of persons) was drawn up with the European Union to allow a phase-in of its borders being opened. The clause, which could temporarily halt residence and work permits for some EU citizens, has not been invoked to date.

The foreign affairs commission of the lower house of the Swiss parliament Tuesday 26 March recommended that the Federal Council  not invoke the safeguard clause, despite some concerns over jobless rates throughout Europe, and other migration issues.

The commission voted 12 to 3 not to invoke the clause, saying it is not in Switzerland’s best interests and could have a negative impact on broader relations with the EU.

The agreement gives the right to citizens of Switzerland and EU member states “to freely choose their place of employment and/or residence within the national territories of the contracting States Parties”, if conditions such as having a job contract are fulfilled.

It was approved by Swiss voters in 2000 and it entered into force in 2002, with later changes to EU membership enlarging the number of signatory parties.

The Swiss Foreign Affairs Department says that the “transitional regulations are designed to ensure a gradual and controlled opening of the labour markets.
  • “For the 15 “old” EU states (EU 15)  together with Malta and Cyprus, full free movement of persons has applied since 1 June 2007; the 8 States (EU-8)  that joined the EU in 2004 have been enjoying full free movement of persons since 1 May 2011.
  • “Up until 31 May 2014, the safeguard clause can be applied for these EU-25 States. As of 1st May 2012, the safeguard clause was applied for at least one year to citizens of the EU-8 States  regarding B-Permits.
  • “For Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, the transitional period can run up to 31 May 2016 at the latest. The safeguard clause’s application to Bulgaria and Romania can be invoked until 31 May 2019.”