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Switzerland to restrict EU immigration


A photo taken on September 4, 2012 in Lille, northern France shows flags of European countries displayed in front of a flag of the European Union. The crisis-torn European Union (EU) won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced October 12, 2012.



Switzerland has said it intends to restrict immigration from all 27 members of the European Union.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, said it expects to apply a limit to the number of work permits issued over the period of a year, starting in May.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized the move.

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"These measures disregard the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU," said a statement from her office, which also claimed the measures were in violation of the free movement agreement.

During the one-year period, Switzerland will issue a maximum of 2180 long-term permits for those coming from new EU member states and 53,700 for those from the old EU member states.

Even before the eurozone crisis, highly skilled workers from Germany and France flocked to Switzerland for jobs, since the country has low unemployment, high salaries and a safe currency. In the last two years, many others have started to arrive from Spain, Portugal and Italy.

A government statement noted that the number of people arriving in Switzerland had exceeded the number leaving by up to 80,000 recently.