ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland and the European Union have to find a compromise on how to act on a Swiss referendum to limit immigration without breaching bilateral treaties with the EU, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a TV interview on Wednesday.
“We have to find a solution with Switzerland because we need each other. I believe Switzerland (needs) the EU a bit more than the other way round,” Schulz told Swiss television SRF. Both sides should try to reach a mutual agreement, he said.
Neutral Switzerland has until February to implement a binding 2014 referendum demanding limits on the influx of foreigners into a country whose population is already a quarter foreign.
It needs a deal by summer to have legislation in place.
But with the EU preoccupied with the loss of major member Britain, chances are fading for a quick deal that would allow outsider Switzerland to implement the referendum without infringing bilateral treaties guaranteeing the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU.
“The talks won’t become easier because the free movement of persons now plays a bigger role,” Schulz said, referring to the impact of Britain’s “Brexit” vote.
He said the Brexit negotiations were going to take a long time, while the EU and Switzerland needed to find a solution “relatively quickly”.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Richard Balmforth)