Switzerland named veteran diplomat Jacques de Watteville to the new position of chief negotiator in talks with the European Union in a bid to break a negotiating deadlock over immigration curbs. Swiss officials have been struggling to reconcile a February 2014 ‘yes’ vote in a referendum for quotas on the number of foreign workers allowed into Switzerland with an EU pact that guarantees the free movement of labour. Switzerland is not in the EU but has accepted its principles of free movement of labour as part of seven treaties governing bilateral economic ties which stand or fall together. Until now, various Swiss politicians and diplomats have handled the EU negotiations depending on the topic. De Watteville was head of the Swiss mission to the EU from 2007 to 2012 and since then has served as the finance ministry’s state secretary for international financial matters, a role in which he leads negotiations on financial and tax issues with other governments. Last year Swiss voters narrowly backed a proposal from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to impose strict immigration quotas, despite opposition from the government, banks and industries that rely heavily on skilled EU workers. The EU denounced the proposal for limits on immigration, which Switzerland’s government has until 2017 to implement.
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Newsline: Swiss names diplomat to head EU talks on immigration