Procedure : 2013/0321(NLE)
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Document selected : A8-0216/2016

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PV 14/09/2016 - 9.1
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PE 582.160v03-00 A8-0216/2016

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Swiss Confederation, of the other, on the free movement of persons, regarding the participation of the Republic of Croatia as a Contracting Party, following its accession to the European Union

(14381/2013 – C8-0120/2016 – 2013/0321(NLE))

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

Rapporteur: Danuta Jazłowiecka



on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Swiss Confederation, of the other, on the free movement of persons, regarding the participation of the Republic of Croatia as a Contracting Party, following its accession to the European Union

(14381/2013 – C8-0120/2016 – 2013/0321(NLE))


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (14381/2013),

–  having regard to the Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Swiss Confederation, of the other, on the free movement of persons, regarding the participation of the Republic of Croatia as a Contracting Party, following its accession to the European Union (14382/2013),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 217, Article 218(6), point (a), and Article 218(8), second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0120/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2), and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0216/2016),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the protocol;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Swiss Confederation.


I. Bilateral Agreements - background information

For its geographical and cultural vicinity, and especially for its political and economic importance, the EU with its 28 Member States is the most important partner of Switzerland. Comparably, through a wide range of agreements, the EU has closer ties with Switzerland than with any other non-European Economic Area (EEA) country. While Switzerland is the EU's 4th largest trading partner, right after the United States, China and Russia, the EU is the Switzerland’s largest. Over 1 million EU citizens live in Switzerland, and another 230 000 cross the border daily to go to work. Some 430 000 Swiss citizens live in the EU. With the Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia entering the EU, the internal market has been further broadened, reaching almost 505 millions of people and becoming even more important for our Swiss partner.

Following Switzerland’s rejection of accession to the EEA Agreement in 1992 and being mutually conscious of a vital importance of cooperation, a series of bilateral agreements (the so called Bilateral Agreements I) were negotiated. They covered free movement of persons, overland transport, air transport, agriculture, research, as well as technical barriers to trade and public procurement, and entered into force on 1 June 2002.

A second package of agreements (Bilateral Agreements II) have been negotiated since June 2002 and signed in 2004. This package contains nine different agreements which concern the taxation of savings, the co-operation in the fight against fraud, the association of Switzerland with the Schengen acquis, participation of Switzerland in the “Dublin” and “Eurodac” regulations, trade in processed agricultural products, Swiss participation in the European Environment Agency and European Environment Information & Observation Network (EIONET), statistical co-operation, the Swiss participation in the Media plus and Media training programs and an agreement on avoidance of double taxation for pensioners of Community institutions.

In its European policy, Switzerland has always aimed at tightening the relations with the EU, with almost 20 principal agreements and over 120 bilateral agreements stipulated and validated by Swiss nation in seven referendums since year 2000.

II. Free movement of persons

The Agreement on the free movement of persons, signed under the Bilateral Agreement I, gave the citizens of the contracting parties the right to enter, live and work in the respective territories by mutually abolishing the majority of restrictions. However, in order to fully benefit from the above-mentioned rights, an employment or service contract or possession of sufficient financial means and insurance is necessary. The aim of this Agreement was to establish between the Union and Switzerland equivalent rules to those provided for in the acquis communautaire, permitting to enter, reside, work, to establish as self-employed, to study, introducing the right to social security and allowing for the same living, employment and working conditions as those accorded to nationals. Moreover, the objective of the Agreement was to facilitate the provision of services in the territory of the contracting parties.

This Agreement was subject to certain transitional provisions, gradually allowing for all EU and Switzerland to benefit from free movement.

The Bilateral Agreement I contains also a fundamental guillotine clause, which states that, if any of the seven treaties are to be terminated, all of the treaties are automatically terminated, and a standstill clause, disposing that the Contracting Parties undertake not to adopt any further restrictive measures vis-à-vis each other’s nationals in fields covered by this Agreement.

III. The Protocols to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons

The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, signed in 2000 under the Bilateral Agreement I and in force since 1 June 2002, was signed between Switzerland and the EU-15. The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons is the only one which did not automatically extend to the new Member States following the enlargement of the EU on 1 May 2004. Consequently, the Agreement was amended through a Protocol and extended to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. The first Protocol to the Agreement entered into force on 1 April 2006. Each of the Protocols followed the model of the Agreement with EU 15, respectively drawing up quotas, labour market access arrangements, restrictions and protective clauses.

Pursuant to the accession to the European Union of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007, the Agreement was amended once again, entering into force in 2009 as Protocol II.

With Croatia entering the European Union in 2013, Protocol III was initiated. However, in consequence of the "Against mass immigration" referendum of 9 February 2014, it was initially blocked. As a reaction, the EU suspended the negotiations on several agreements with Switzerland, including the framework programme on research and innovation “Horizon 2020” and the student exchange program “Erasmus+”. However, on 4 March 2016, Switzerland and the EU signed the Protocol III extending the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons to Croatia.

The present Protocol III requires, comparably to the previous ones, the consent of the European Parliament.

IV. The present Protocol

It is provided that for a period of 7 years from the entry into force of the Protocol, Switzerland may limit the access of Croatian citizens into the labour market (quotas, priority to local workers, control of working conditions and wages). During the last two years of this transition period, the restrictions must be accepted by the Joint Switzerland-EU Committee.

When it comes to labour market restrictions, Switzerland may maintain quantitative limits in respect of access by workers employed in Switzerland and for self-employed persons who are nationals of Croatia for the following two categories of residence: a) residence for a period of more than four months and less than one year; b) residence for a period equal to, or exceeding, one year.

The quantitative limits are set for each year of the Protocol’s seven year implementation. The quotas for each year are progressive so that Switzerland may open gradually, year by year, its labour market to Croatian workers.

Further provisions are laid down to enable Switzerland and Croatia to maintain the controls on the priority of workers integrated into the regular labour market and the wage and working conditions applicable to nationals of the other Contracting Party concerned.

Croatia should be entitled to introduce the same quantitative limits for Swiss nationals for the same periods. An important final safeguard clause states that at the end of the 7-year period of the Protocol, Switzerland shall have the opportunity for a further three years, to unilaterally activate the safeguard clause against Croatian citizens with a view to limiting the number of residence permits to allow them to work. Specific provisions are laid down to this effect.

The total transition period with safeguard clause – if applicable – is thus of 10 years from the date of entry into force of the Protocol.

V. The popular vote on the 9th of February 2014 "Against mass immigration"

On 9th of February 2014, with 50,3% of the votes and the majority of cantons, a popular initiative presented by the Swiss People’s Party, entitled "Against mass immigration", was adopted by the Swiss nation in a referendum. The initiative's main element was the introduction of a new article 121a to the Swiss Federal Constitution. The core elements of this article were stating that Switzerland autonomously regulates immigration, residence permits restrictions and quotas may be introduced, based on the Switzerland's overall economic interests, and that business is obliged to give Swiss nationals priority when hiring staff. Moreover, what is highly important for the EU-Switzerland Agreement, the "Against mass immigration initiative" stated that no international treaty or agreement can infringe the newly introduced article.

In practice, Article 121a of the Constitution aims at putting limits to the immigration into Switzerland, to re-introduce quotas for foreigners and calls for the renegotiation of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the EU. With its adoption, the Federal Council has three years to implement measures to reach these goals, that is by February 2017. It shall however be underlined, that the Article 121a is not compatible with the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

In July 2014, a letter requesting the revision of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons was sent to European External Action Service, responsible for the management of the EU-Switzerland Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. An immediate response from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Catherine Ashton, following consultations with Member States, was sent underlining that renegotiating the principle of non-discrimination, including equal treatment, with the objective of introducing quantitative limits and quotas, combined with a preference for Swiss nationals would be in fundamental contradiction to the Agreement and that, consequently, the EU does not agree to any revision in this respect.

Taking into consideration the guillotine clause and the need to respect the terms of the Agreement, consultations are now taking place with Swiss representatives in order to seek a mutually acceptable solution, possibly on the basis of an interpretation of the Article 14.2 of the Agreement, which foresees that in the event of “serious economic and social difficulties”, the Joint Committee can examine appropriate measures to remedy the situation.

The forthcoming months will need to bring the solution to the aftermath of the mentioned referendum. Taking into account that Switzerland’s autonomous decision may cause the termination of Bilateral Agreement I, it is then up to the Swiss Confederation to propose an acceptable solution.

VI. The Rapporteur's position

Switzerland benefits comparably to the EU Member States from the internal market and its enlargements, what has repeatedly been stated by the Swiss counterpart(1) and underlined within the Swiss analysis of the consequences of termination of Bilateral Agreements I(2). It is beyond doubt that both Croatia and Switzerland will benefit from the signature of the present Protocol III, politically, economically and culturally profiting from a larger internal market where the free movement is a crucial element.

For all these reasons, the rapporteur supports the Protocol to the agreement and recommends it be given a consent.


The Economiesuisse, which is the Swiss corporate union, defines the bilateral agreements as "indispensable and inevitable", especially with the access to the markets of the new Member States;



Date adopted





Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Guillaume Balas, Tiziana Beghin, Brando Benifei, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Lampros Fountoulis, Elena Gentile, Arne Gericke, Marian Harkin, Czesław Hoc, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Jeroen Lenaers, Javi López, Morten Løkkegaard, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Emilian Pavel, Georgi Pirinski, Marek Plura, Terry Reintke, Sofia Ribeiro, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Romana Tomc, Yana Toom, Marita Ulvskog, Renate Weber, Tatjana Ždanoka

Substitutes present for the final vote

Daniela Aiuto, Georges Bach, Lynn Boylan, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Joachim Schuster, Csaba Sógor, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Flavio Zanonato, Gabriele Zimmer

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Paul Tang












Enrique Calvet Chambon, Martina Dlabajová, Marian Harkin, Morten Løkkegaard, Yana Toom, Renate Weber

Arne Gericke, Czesław Hoc

Laura Agea, Daniela Aiuto, Tiziana Beghin

Lynn Boylan, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Gabriele Zimmer

Terry Reintke, Tatjana Zdanoka

Georges Bach, David Casa, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Ádám Kósa, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Jeroen Lenaers, Thomas Mann, Marek Plura, Sofia Ribeiro, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Csaba Sógor, Romana Tomc

Guillaume Balas, Brando Benifei, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Ole Christensen, Elena Gentile, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Jan Keller, Javi López, Emilian Pavel, Georgi Pirinski, Joachim Schuster, Paul Tang, Marita Ulvskog, Flavio Zanonato





Dominique Martin

Lampros Fountoulis





Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention

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