MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The initiative was proposed by the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP), currently having the most seats among all parties presented in the National Council taking into consideration the fact that foreigners constitute almost one-quarter of the country's population.
Brussels and Bern agreed on the principle of freedom of movement in 1999, granting each other's citizens the right to enter, live and work on their respective territories. Over one million of EU citizens live in Switzerland, and almost 300,000 cross the border daily to go to work, according to the EU External Action Service.
The initiative of SVP came under heavy criticism from politicians, government bodies, aid agencies and other non-governmental organizations. The country's Federal Council expressed its dissatisfaction with the right-wing proposal with Caritas Internationalis aid organization and others making similar statements.
At the same time, Deputy Secretary of SVP Silvia Bar has told Sputnik that the country has not been tough enough on criminals in the past as it has not widely used deportation as a deterrent.
Gregor Rutz, another party member, has claimed that foreign offenders account for 73 percent of burglaries, 61 percent of rapes and 58 percent of murders, citing crime statistics.
The upcoming referendum is particularly a hot issue for large corporations in Switzerland with a considerable number of foreign nationals among personnel. Chief Executive Officer of the pharmaceutical company Novartis stated that he understands people's concerns and Switzerland should think of the policies that made the country so attractive for international business in the first place.
In December, the Swiss government announced plans to limit immigration from the European Union. The move came after a 2014 voting, where 50.3 percent of the citizens backed a right-wing proposal to reintroduce immigration quotas for EU citizens moving to the country.