President Talks with Swiss Counterpart to Open Labour Market

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, July 8, 2019 – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who is on a two-day official visit to Switzerland, on Monday met with Swiss President Ueli Maurer and the two officials agreed that they would work so that Croatians have equal opportunities on the Swiss labour market like other European Union citizens.

Switzerland signed a bilateral agreement on 1 June 2002 with the EU, which then comprised 15 member states, regarding the free movement of persons which was followed by separate protocols for each member state.

Switzerland was bound to sign a protocol with Croatia after it joined the EU in mid-2013, but Bern refused to do so after a referendum in 2014 in which the Swiss voted for introducing quotas for workers from the EU.

Switzerland finally signed the protocol in 2016 regarding free movement of Croatian citizens which entered into force on 1 January 2017 with the condition of a transitional period of 2+3+3+2 years of extending the application of the protocol.

“What we recommended considering that Switzerland introduced the transitional period of 2+3+3+2, was that the three and a half years that it took for the protocol to be ratified (since Croatia’s accession to the EU) to be deducted from that period,” Grabar-Kitarović said after meeting with Maurer in Bern.

Grabar-Kitarović underscored that if the entire transitional period were to be applied that would mean Croatian citizens would be faced with restrictions in Switzerland until 2027. It is possible however to reduce that transitional period or to refrain from extending it.

“Like the president Maurer said, Croatian immigrants are exceptionally well integrated in Swiss society. There are no problems and they do not arouse those feelings that some Swiss citizens have toward immigration,” Grabar-Kitarović said.

In a referendum in February 2014, 50.3% of Swiss citizens decided to support immigration restrictions.

Currently foreigners account for 25% of the country’s population with Croatians accounting for 2.2% or about 31,000 residents. If residents with dual citizenship are taken into account, that number is between 70,000 and 80,000.

“Even though my population policy is well-known and I want people to remain in Croatia or for them to return, as president I am supposed to represent the equality of all citizens. In any case, mobility is good and I hope that people who live here will return to Croatia and transfer their know-how and experiences from this regulated society,” Grabar-Kitarović said.

Maurer, who does not have the authority to make decisions on immigration on his own, promised to visit Croatia soon and that they would once again discuss the issue of equal status for Croatian workers.

He said that Croatia could support Switzerland during its chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of next year because Bern has still not concluded the Institutional Framework Agreement with the EU and Switzerland “will request Zagreb’s assistance.”

That jeopardises Switzerland’s financial contribution intended to reduce economic and social differences between certain member states.

“Considering that some EU member states do not wish to recognise equivalent Swiss stock exchanges on the European market, a framework agreement on cooperation cannot be signed because Switzerland has set that as a precondition to approve a second instalment of aid to member states, such as Croatia, where cohesion is still essential,” Grabar-Kitarović said.

“That aid is important for us because so far Switzerland has invested in mine clearance, particularly in forest areas as well as in rehabilitation for land mine victims and in other areas too that are exceptionally vital for Croatia’s development.”

The two presidents discussed strengthening economic cooperation as well education, tourism and the transfer of know-how.

Commodity exchange between the two countries last year amounted to 353 million euro while in 2018, Croatia recorded a growth in exports to Switzerland of 14% compared to 2017. The number of bed nights by Swiss tourists to Croatia is also growing and in 2018, there were 276,000 or 5% more than in 2017.

After the meeting Grabar-Kitarović met with the President of Switzerland’s National Council, Marina Carobbio Guscetti. Later, Grabar-Kitarović will meet with the heads of the Croatian Catholic Mission and representatives of Croatian associations in Switzerland.

On the second day of the visit, President Grabar-Kitarović will travel to Zurich and visit the ETH Zurich Technological University, where she will meet with Croatian professors, researchers and students.

More news about relations between Croatia and Switzerland can be found in the Politics section.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment